I saw this movie today and loved every minute of it. I kind of wish I’d waited until after Thanksgiving, because it really starts the whole Christmas Spirit thing going, and I’m not sure I’m going to be able to keep it up until the end of December.
Every bit as sweet and good-natured and uplifting as your typical Christmas movie, but manages to sidestep feeling predictable or maudlin almost every step of the way. And when it does veer into predictable territory, Will Ferrell manages to knock it back into something you haven’t quite seen before. Great stuff from Bob Newhart and Amy Sedaris (although she’s underused, yet again) and Zooey Deschanel and Andy Richter and The Other Guy From Tenacious D. You’d have to be a pretty hard-hearted S.O.B. not to get a real kick out of Elf. (As evidence, I notice that the pompous moron James Bernarderelli has managed to piss on it from his website).
In fact, I’ll go a step further and say that I hope this is the first sign that we’re finally maturing out of the whole “edgy and ironic” nonsense we’ve been mired in. The tone of Elf shows that you can be referential without being mocking, earnest without being naive, sincere without being syrupy, and silly without being stupid. You don’t have to make fun of something to have fun with it. Yes, we’ve all seen the Rankin-Bass animated Christmas specials and we know how silly but memorable they were. You can pay homage to those by having the Burl Ives Snowman flinging out cuss words or by having Rudolph mow people down with a machine gun, or you can take the higher road like they did for Elf.
It was really discouraging to get home from the movie and see trailers for a different movie called Bad Santa starring Billy Bob Thornton, that looks about as bad as can be.