ELF

Cast.
Buddy: Will Ferrell
Walter: James Caan
Santa Claus: Edward Asner
Papa Elf: Bob Newhart
Emily: Mary Steenburgen
Michael: Daniel Tay
Jovie: Zooey Deschanel
New Line Cinema presents a film directed by Jon Favreau. Written by David Berenbaum. Running time: 95 minutes. Rated PG (for some mild rude humor and language).

Central Theme
Goodness, innocence, sweetness are irresistible and will be triumphant even in this cynical world.

Story
One Christmas Eve, a long time ago, a small baby at an orphanage crawled into Santa’s bag of toys, only to go undetected and accidentally carried back to Santa’s workshop in the North Pole. Though he was quickly taken under the wing of a surrogate father and raised to be an elf, as he grows to be three sizes larger than everyone else, it becomes clear that Buddy (Will Ferrell) will never truly fit into the elf world. What he needs is to find his real family. This holiday season, Buddy decides to find his true place in the world and sets off for New York City to track down his roots.

Although Buddy experiences a world he never knew existed, he quickly learns that life in the big city is not all ice skating and sugarplums, and he finds himself as much an outsider there as back in the North Pole. Buddy seeks out his real father, Walter (James Caan), a workaholic publisher of children’s books with a place on Santa’s “naughty” list. Walter doesn’t believe Buddy is who or what he says he is; in fact, the only thing Walter believes in with any certainty is the bottom line. Buddy also discovers a new mom (Mary Steenburgen), and learns he has a ten-year-old half-brother (Daniel Tay) who doesn’t believe in Christmas or elves or Santa. In fact, everyone seems to have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas.

With the holiday season fast approaching, Buddy takes it upon himself and his earnest elf ways to win over his family, realize his destiny and, ultimately, save Christmas for New York and the world.‚© New Live Cinema.

This silly, feel good movie works because it is simple visually and artistically and is populated with engaging characters practicing their craft well. The low-tech visuals are almost stunning in the contrast with today’s typical fare. Will Ferrell pulls off his misplaced human schtick with a sincerity that does not break character or imply he is in on a joke about his character. He is a straight-ahead goof and it works. The adults cooperate by falling in love with him instead of having him institutionalized!

A wonderful ensemble cast that appeals to adults and younger kids not easy to do. One of the producers, Todd Komarnicki, is a Wheaton College grad and takes issue with Christian reviewers complaining about leaving Christ out of Christmas. He argues this story has integrity that it would lose f the Jesus story was attached ( “like an extras appendage”). He also argues that the story of Jesus stands on its own merit and should not be subsumed in or combined with other artistic pieces.

The NT description of love (1 Corinthians 13) bears an uncanny resemblance to Buddy, especially in his hopefulness demonstrated towards his dad. The movie also underscores Buddy’s childlike optimism and hopefulness. Remember, Jesus said if we don’t become as little children we will not enter the kingdom of God.

Beliefs num
–Innocence triumphs over darkness.
–Love and kindness prevail.
–Under the hard exterior of today’s cynic, is a warm-hearted person yearning to get free.
–Play is good.
–Faith powers Santa’s sleigh.
–Once kindness reaches critical mass, the world will be a better place.
–Sarficing your interests for others is a good thing.

Questions Worth Discussing num
–What are the artistic merits of this film?
–What elements common to human experience did you resonate with in this film?
–What elements in word, deed, theme or behavior created a dissonance with who you are or want to be spiritually?
–What does this film tell us about who God is? Who humans are? What we are seeking in life?
–Do you truly think an innocent person can survive in today’s cynical world.
–Is there a problem with a “holiday movie” that does not mention Jesus? (Is there a problem with a holiday movie that does not mention Jesus? If you think that about Elf, what about LOTR?).

Provocative Quotes byline
–ATTENTION: WE make every effort to assure the accuracy of provocative quotes. If you find an inaccurate quote please send corrections to culturewatch@dickstaub.com.
==CW EDITORS.
–If he hasn’t figured out he is human by now. I don’ think he ever will.
==About Buddy,
–Your father is on the naughty list.
==uddy to Michael.
–I don’t belong anywhere.
==Buddy.
–The Clausometer just dropped down to zero. There’s just no Christmas spirit anymore.
==Santa.
–Christmas spirit is about believing not seeing.
==Buddy.
–The best way to spread christmas cheer is to sing loud for all to hear.
==Buddy and Jovie.
–Not if they tell the truth! One of the things that is beautiful about a good fairy tale is that it reflects the truth. The truth that Elf reflects is about giving and innocence and learning to live sacrificially to put others first. That’s the story of Christmas. It reflects the truth of Christmas. We have a savior who was a storyteller, [so] I think there is great value in story. Jesus almost never said exactly what his thought was straight out. He was always couching it in metaphor and simile, so that people would think to engage them and to engage their imagination, to see the context in which they were living. Story does that. I think it’s a very powerful tool. Certainly, like any tool, it can be misused, but I think Elf is a really strong example of a beautiful fairy tale that by its nature ends up reflecting the truth. The writer didn’t set out to reflect the gospel. But, in telling a beautiful fairy tale from his own heart and in reflecting a lot of Christmas movies that he had loved, he wound up reflecting the gospel.
==Todd Komarnicki, producer of ELF on criticism’s that it leaves Christ out of Christmas, CT online November 13, 2003.
–Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way. Love is not irritable or resentful. Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing. Love rejoices in the truth. Love bears all things. Love believes all things. Love hopes all things. Love endures all things. Love never ends.
==1 Corinthians 13
–The thing that makes Buddy the adult “elf” stand out in New York City is his radical goodness. He is variously described by the movie’s characters, actors and makers as, “pure as the driven snow,” “child-like,” “innocent,” “naive,” and “magical.” In many ways, said star Will Farrell in pre-release interviews, Buddy demonstrates that ignorance (of the ways of the world) can truly be bliss. Mary Steenburgen, who plays Buddy’s step-mother, puts it another way: Buddy shows us that we “are all capable of being magical.” So why aren’t we magical? In Manhattan a few weeks ago, Steenburgen offered an answer: natural human cynicism and the everyday cares of life drag us down. Or, as Jesus put it in one of his parables, the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke out the magic in us like thorns and weeds in a garden.
==Gregory Wright Review at Hollywood.com.

Posted in Movies, Staublog in November 21, 2003 by | No Comments »

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