‘Tis the season to be a little silly, and Elf is definitely a silly family-friendly movie with plenty of fun for both parents and kids.
Confession time. The first time I watched Elf, I hated it. Everything about a fully grown man acting like a 5-year-old all over New York City made me cringe in the worst sort of way. I literally hid under a blanket because I was so embarrassed for Buddy’s character.
I didn’t watch it again until I had kids of my own. Which, by the way, raises the bar on what you see as embarrassing. All the stuff that really bothered me the first time I watched it suddenly became seriously funny. Ah, the joys of being a parent, am I right?
Buddy is a human who has been raised by Santa’s elves up in his workshop at the North Pole. One day he learns that he, in fact, is not an elf and that his real dad lives in New York. Buddy decides that the next logical step is to find his father, not only to reconnect, but also because the man is on Santa’s naughty list and perhaps there is a way to change that.
Unsurprisingly, Buddy’s dad want’s nothing to do with a 35-year-old man baby who doesn’t know how to function in the real world. His wife, however, is far more understanding and welcomes him into their home where he meets his half brother. Buddy can’t be trusted to be left alone. The last time they did that, he used the wood from their entertainment center to make a rocking horse. He has to go to work with his new found dad.
It doesn’t go well.
As a side story, Buddy meets a department store worker working as an elf for the holidays and totally falls in love. He’s so different from anyone that Jovie has met before, that she can’t help but give him a chance.
All this comes to a head when Buddy rushes to his dad’s work to tell him that he’s in love during a critical meeting, and what’s worse, Buddy inadvertantly insults the man his dad had the hopes of closing a big business deal with. Dad tells Buddy to get out of his life and never return.
Buddy, totally heartbroken, leaves to see if there is somewhere in the world he belongs and happens to spot Santa crashing into Central Park. It seems that without Christmas cheer, Santa’s sled can’t fly. Buddy, having been a North Pole elf, thankfully knows how to fix the engine and finally feels needed. In the meantime, his half brother convinces his dad that family is all about helping each other and they go looking for Buddy.
When they find him in Central Park, dad finally realizes that everything Buddy has told him about his past is actually true. He has a huge change of heart and helps Santa get back to delivering presents.
For a Christmas story, this one is pretty perfect. We have an innocent character who only wants to do good in the world and one who’s lost sight of the meaning of Christmas and family. Through their interactions, they both grow and learn together what is really important. Do I still think it’s a bit silly? Yes. It’s over the top silly. But, now, with that blessed lens of perspective, I can laugh along with all the things Buddy does and just enjoy the story.
The story is well balanced, full of heart, and now a family favorite.
I’ll state this again, but if you’re the type that can’t handle watching adults acting childish, this movie will make you super uncomfortable. Buddy literally has no inhibitions, but he also doesn’t know any better, so much of it is forgivable if you can get that far.
There are hoards of positive messages and great role models of what it means to be good family and a good friend. There’s no real swearing, it’s all swapped out for silly things like “crap” and “meanie.” There’s one reference to someone being naked in a shower, but it’s not dwelled on.
For a clean fun Christmas movie, Elf gets a 4/5 in my book.
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