I don’t think I could’ve gotten more Christmassy last night, eating mince pies, unloading boxes of decorations, fastening a garland around the upper length of the living room and swearing like a good ‘un when the blasted pins wouldn’t stay in the wall (I think this problem is mainly due to the numerous pin marks in the same place from the past seven Christmasses, Christmass’?, Christmases ? answers on a postcard please). As I was thus engaged and my wife reaped the benefits of forethought at the closing of last year’s festivites when she carefully wrapped the Christmas tree lights back around the original plastic holding thingies and back into their boxes, we were half watching what has become a regular staple in our Xmas viewing schedule, Elf.
This one is definately a grower. I remember enjoying it fine enough on the first viewing, but not being bowled over by it. It’s now become one that I don’t need to watch with the kids as an excuse. In most everything else he’s done, apart from maybe Anchorman but definately Old School, I can take or leave Will Ferrell. He has a natural comic flair and a readily identifiable comic persona that has, through tripe like Talladega Nights and unnecessary buddy cameos like Wedding Crashers, becme somewhat overused and increasingly grating. As Buddy in Elf, however, I couldn’t think of anyone that would be better suited to the role. The childlike innocence and wide eyed wonder in the big city brings to mind Tom Hanks in Big coupled with the family friendly version of Ferrell’s usual schtick. This is by no means a one man show, for every loony man child needs a straight man to play off, and who better than everyone’s favourite toll booth sieve James Caan. I have to say that, as great as he is here, Caan seems a bit more subdued than I’d have liked. The man constantly seems to be in a state of simmering rage in every film he’s done and it would’ve been good to see him cut loose a little bit more here. Mary Steenburgen marks herself down for an Xmas double bill here (with One Magic Christmas, review pending) and Zooey Deschanel plays the cynic with a yen to sing who falls for the Elf out of water’s charms.
The bit that gets my Christmas juices running has to be at the end, with Santa’s Xmas spirit deprived sleigh getting a burst of energy (just in time to escape the Central Park Rangers (What?)) from an impromptu rendition of ‘Santa Clause Is Coming To Town’. I’m a sucker for that kind of crap and you’ll catch me with the biggest of cheesiest grins on my face when James Caan stops miming and the full power of Christmas spirit propells Santa’s sleigh into the air to leave the crowd speechless.
I’m afraid when it comes to Christmas movies my critical capacities are crippled somewhat by my love for the season so, y’know, just be prepared for it alright ? I’m going to be giving all sorts of crap a free pass over these last few weeks of the year, maybe even The Santa Clause 3. So, er, be prepared son, that’s my motto.