After 20 years, it still spreads Christmas cheer by singing loud for all to hear.
Before you brats indulged yourselves with “Daddy’s Home” and before you dancers had a ball with “Spirited,” I was introduced to Will Ferrell’s comedy talents with his holiday hit “Elf,” which turns 20 and still slays us. You know the story of how the human Buddy (Ferrell) was adopted by the wise old elf Papa Elf (Bob Newhart), traveled to New York City to meet his disgruntled father Walter Hobbs (the late James Caan), fell in love with the Gimbel’s department store elf Jovie (Zooey Deschanel), and helped Santa (the late Ed Asner) bring in the Christmas spirit.
Jon Favreau directed this film before “Iron Man” and before he spoiled today’s kids with “The Lion King” remake. This is a holiday comedy, one that doesn’t rely on the most obvious approaches, but actually knows how to be funny and sweet. It’s impossible to not laugh or be moved by “Elf,” especially as it transcends over time.
Every Christmas since then, my family and I have watched and enjoyed this movie. You have a number of memorable lines: “Buddy the elf, what’s your favorite color?,” “You sit on a throne of lies,” “He must be a South Pole elf,” and “We elves try to stick to our four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corn, and syrup.” The list goes on and on.
You have a number of extra stars in the mix like Mary Steenburgen as Walter’s wife, Daniel Tay as their son, Peter Billingsley (A.K.A. Ralphie Parker) as a stressed elf, Peter Dinklage as the rich guy Buddy thinks is an elf, Artie Lange as a Gimbel’s Santa, Faizon Love as a Gimbel’s manager, Amy Sedaris, Andy Ritcher, and Kyle Gass as Walter’s employees, the late Michael Lerner as his mean boss, and even Favreau cameos as pediatrician.
The impact this movie has on the entertainment industry included a stage production and a stop-motion musical TV special with only Ed Asner voicing Santa and Jim Parsons voicing Buddy. And speaking of stop-motion, when I first saw this movie, I was surprised they added that animation in the mix with the snowman, polar bear, walrus, penguin, and sea creature. Even the goofy voices crack me up.
Plus, this movie is so iconic, that the Empire State Building not only lit its colors in yellow and green, but will also have screenings in December (3, 10, and 17). It’s where Walter worked, and where Buddy played with the elevator buttons making it light up like a Christmas tree. So, it makes sense. You can watch it in theaters or in your living room or on your computer or phone, and you still are delighted with its exuberance.