For someone who didn’t grow up celebrating Christmas, I sure do love Christmas movies. The end-of-the-year holiday season has produced some great films, including classics like Miracle on 34th Street, Christmas in Connecticut, It Happened on 5th Avenue (recently discovered on Turner Classic Movies), White Christmas (and its cringe-inducing predecessor Holiday Inn), It’s A Wonderful Life, as well as the numerous versions of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. More recently, a new crop of movies have kept the holiday spirit going, with offerings like… like… um… well, right now, I can only think of Die Hard.
Through the glut of Hallmark Christmas movies and the umpteenth showing of Disney’s Santa Clause trilogy, Mrs. Pincus and I discovered a charming holiday film that we have been ignoring for two decades. The film is Elf. The reason I steered away from Elf was its star — Will Ferrell. I never thought Will Ferrell was funny. Yeah, yeah… I know. I am in the overwhelming minority. His movies are popular. I just find him to be annoying and embarrassing and too much like Chevy Chase — who I also find annoying and unfunny.
But one evening last December, my wife and I were going thorough the plethora of channels available from the good folks at Comcast and we reluctantly gave Elf a chance… and we loved it. Everyone in it was was terrific! The characters were endearing when they had to be and comical when that was called for. It’s filled with repeatable quotes and memorable scenes — and stars! Bob Newhart, Mary Steenburgen, Ed Asner, the irrepressible Amy Sedaris and a perfectly-curmudgeonly James Caan who looks as though he’d like to have a word with his agent. The lovely Zooey Deschanel — in a blond wig and adding just the right amount of quirkiness to a character that ends up dating an elf — keeps her actual quirkiness in check long enough to pull off the part. Plus there’s Andy Richter and Kyle Gass (the other half of Tenacious D) as the comedy pairing you didn’t know you needed. Oh, and in a brief cameo, good sport Peter Dinklage hilariously deadpans the role he was meant to play. It’s an hour and a half of mindless, heartwarming, silly holiday entertainment. In all honesty, Elf kind of falls flat in the third act, but all-in-all, I found it to be a well-made, well-written, well-acted bit of escapism. No, it’s not Citizen Kane, and it doesn’t pretend to be.
Sure, I’m late to the party, but I am making up for lost time. I think I watched Elf (or parts of Elf) over a dozen times this year,