The best (in my opinionated view) 100 films of all time - in no particular order.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014


For the fifth film of Christmas my true love gave to me . . .

Some people find Will Ferrell really irritating. Some people find his comedies low-brow and puerile attempts at humour. Some people don’t even find him funny at all. Me? I can take him or leave him. I thought Talladega Nights (2006) was OK, Step Brothers (2008) was awful and Anchorman 2 (2013) was a disappointment, but I thought Anchorman (2004), The Other Guys (2010) and The Campaign (2012) were all hilarious. He’s a bit of an acquired taste for some, but there’s no denying the charm of his breakthrough performance in Jon Favreau’s wonderful Christmas movie Elf (2003).

In Elf he plays Buddy, a human raised by Santa’s elves, who is told by his elf dad (played marvellously straight by the great Bob Newhart) that he was adopted as a baby and that his real father (James Caan) lives in New York, works in a publishing firm in the Empire State Building and is on Santa’s Naughty List. So he sets off from the North Pole on his big adventure to find his father.He's an innocent in big world, a child in a man's body and obvious comparisons can be made here to Tom Hanks' breakthrough performance in Penny Marshall's Big (1988)

James Caan as the weary, disillusioned children’s book publisher is an inspired bit of casting and Mary Steenburgen as his wife is as beautiful as ever. Zooey Deschanel is the love interest and pre-Game of Thrones Peter Dinklage is pretentious children’s author Miles Finch. Veteran actor Ed Asner is Santa, and there’s even a brief part for that maestro of stop motion animation, Ray Harryhausen, who provides the voice for a Polar Bear Cub. But it’s Will Ferrell’s eternally optimistic man-elf who carries the film. He’s a delight in every single scene he’s in. There’s a great scene about halfway through the film when James Caan has taken him home and the family are sitting down to dinner. Buddy, who has grown up on a full sugar diet, picks up a two-litre bottle of coke and downs the lot, before letting out a long, loud burp, after which he says, “Did you hear that?” That scene makes me cry with laughter every time I see it.

What can I say? I’m a man. I’ve never really grown up. I laugh when people burp or fart. I find toilet humour highly amusing.

There’s only a couple of brief moments of toilet humour in what is otherwise a clever, uplifting and cheerful family movie about an innocent abroad. There are sly references to other seasonal movies throughout, most notably, Miracle on 34th Street and It’s A Wonderful Life, and there’s an uncredited Peter Billingsley – Ralphie from A Christmas Story (1983) – as Ming Ming.

Credit where credit is due though, must go to the writer, David Berenbaum, who turned in a smart, funny and intelligent script. It was directed by the prolific Jon Favreau, who took a huge gamble in 1996 by writing a script for himself and his friend Vince Vaughn, which became their breakthrough film, the wonderful and hilarious Swingers. Since then he has directed Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005) the first two Iron Man films (2008 & 2010) Cowboys and Aliens (2011) Chef (2014) and his Jungle Book is set for release in 2015. He has become one of the most successful writer/producer/director's of the last twenty years. Much as I am comic book geek and I love the Iron Man films, it's Elf that's the film of his I like the most.

Elf does have a bit of a schmaltzy ending, but that doesn’t spoil the enjoyment of this sweet seasonal story. 

If you haven’t already seen it, put aside your prejudices about Will Ferrell and watch Elf this Christmas and succumb to Buddy’s innocent sense of joy and wonder.

It's a bit of a short blogpost today. Well  . . . it is about an elf . . .

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