It is not an easy task making a movie that has Christmas at the core of its being. And that’s not just about the pressure of having to please family audiences and spreading Christmas cheer, but also at having to compete with a century worth of film that we automatically associate with the festival. Elf (2003) is the one film from this century that has managed to make it to millions of playlists come Christmas.
Elf stars comedy giant Will Ferrell, who pretty much carries the movie in a PG (parental guidance)-avatar we may not be used to seeing him in very often. When a performance is rated among the best of someone of Ferrell’s stature, you can expect a pretty high standard.
Ferrell plays Buddy, a human who accidentally falls into Santa’s bag one Christmas and is raised at St Nicholas’s base at the North Pole. Buddy has grown up believing he is an elf, but one day overhears that he is in fact human. He sets out to New York City to find his biological father.
A still from Elf.
Elf has all the classic elements you would expect in a Christmas movie. Family? Check. Questions over whether Santa is real? Check. Optimism? Check. Spreading of cheer and hope? Check. And all of it told through the travails of a character who is not of our jaded world? Check. The movie even has the 2003 version of crowdfunding when a significant chunk of New Yorkers rally to raise enough Christmas cheer to power Santa’s sleigh back into the sky.
All this, with a cast that includes Ed Asner as Santa, James Caan (of The Godfather fame), Zooey Deschanel and Jon Favreau (who has also directed the caper).
We all associate some movies with particular days of the year. For Indians, it is usually Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi with Gandhi Jayanti and Independence Day. For most Americans, Christmas has for decades included The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, some version or the other of Charles Dickens’s classic A Christmas Carol. It is indeed an achievement that Elf has joined those ranks. And once you watch Elf, it would be easy to understand why. It is easy to watch it — Elf is streaming on Netflix and is your ideal midweek, pre-Christmas watch to slip into the holiday spirit.