Tag Archives: Christmas film

‘Elf’ (2003) – 9/10


I rewatched Elf the other day, so decided to review this as I have not had chance to watch many new films (I broke my laptop and am too busy to go to the cinema – you’ve got to love the holidays).

I want to start off by saying that this is not just my favourite Christmas film, it is my favourite film period!! So I might be biased with my review (so take heed)!

‘Elf’ (2003) is a film about a baby, living in an orphanage, who accidentally gets taken to the North Pole by Santa Claus when he slips into Santa’s bag trying to attain a Christmas present. Consequently, an elderly elf adopts the baby, names him Buddy (Will Ferrell) and takes care of him as if he is his own. Buddy grows up believing he is an elf, but one day overhears a couple of elfs saying that Buddy is in fact a human (which explains his drastic difference in size to them, as well as his perceived clumsiness), and so decides to travel to New York in order to find his biological father, a business man named Walter Hobbs (James Cann).

The reason I like this film so much is because it has every factor I like/hope to see in a film. Firstly, it is a Christmas film. For some reason, I love Christmas films. I do not necessarily love Christmas the day itself, but rather I love the build up and anticipation of it. I love the ‘magic’ of Christmas that is captured in Christmas songs and movies. The excitement, the nostalgia and the ‘spirit’ that these films and songs somehow magically capture is just beautiful/evokes emotions in me that make me love this time of year. ‘Elf’ nails this. It obviously features Santa (Edward Anser), a toy store  (Gimbels), features a singing duet (between Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel), and stars an Elf (Will Ferell) – but it also features a Christmas message (‘the best way to spread holiday cheer is singing loud for all to hear’), and of course spreads the importance of family.

Secondly, I think the plot is genius. It’s a simple story, but is told from the perspective of a story within a story. The film is narrated by Papa Elf (Bob Newhart), who recounts Buddy’s story up until present day. I won’t give much away about this (for those who have not seen the film), but it is very cute how the plot is tied up. It is simple yet effective (and not too cheesy).

Thirdly, I like the animation in this film. The film mainly relies on forced perspective (to make it look like Will Ferrell is massive in comprison to the ‘elves’ he works with in the North Pole), but it also has stop motion, which works perfectly. The dynamic between real life and this style of animation works really well (which is mainly down to the sets used/the entire mis-en-scene of the film). The emergence of actors with animation is seemless.

Finally, the cast is strong, as is the directing, editing and script – which makes ‘Elf’ such a stand-out film for me. This film has some of my favourite actors involved, and they are all hilarous. I love Will Ferrell. Everything I have seen him in  (apart from maybe ‘Bewitched’ (2005)) has been excellent. I really like comedy films, and his style of humour – this dry/slapstick style – is right up my street. I also like Zooey Deschanel (who plays a similar cute role in films like ‘Yes Man’ (2008) and ‘500 Days of Summer’ (2009)),  James Cann (who played Sonny in ‘The Godfather’ trilogy), Peter Dinklage (who plays just as a commanding role as when he plays Tyrion in ‘Game of Thrones’), Mary Steenburgen (who features alongside her husband Ted Danson in one of my favourite American sitcoms ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’), and Jon Favreau (who also directs this) – to name but a few… All these actors execute the script brilliantly (which is written by David Berenbaum, and full of sublime one-liners), which is set against a feel-good score (composed by John Debney), that neatly ties up all the great aspects of this movie.

This is my favourite film. I can watch it repeatedly anytime of year. It is my favourite genre of film (a Christmas rom-com), has my favourite style of humour (a ridiculous hybrid on slap-stick) and is edited together brilliantly. The cast is strong, and the sets, animation and overall cinematography makes this film timeless/it has fared well!! I think it’s one of the best ‘modern’ Christmas films. I once did not get a job at a cinema for saying this was my favourite film (as most people there named art-house/blockbuster films as theirs) – but maintain that this is still my favourite. It’s so simple yet well crafted. I read somewhere that Will Ferrell turned down $29million to do a sequel , and rightly so. This is timeless and should be kept as it is! A must see, family feel-good Christmas film starring Will Ferrell dressed as an Elf – what more could you ask for?

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‘A Christmas Carol’ (2009) – 7/10

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I don’t know why it has taken me so long to watch this film. I have been recommended to watch this for the past 5 years, and still had not got round to seeing it. So yesterday, I decided to force myself to watch this, and got mad at myself for not having seen it sooner. It was wicked! I love Jim Carrey. I love Christmas films. I love animations. This film was the ideal film for me – I just wish I had seen it in the cinema, rather than seeing the animation for the first time on my laptop via a poor quality version I ha d found online…

‘A Christmas Carol’ is based on the 1843 Christmas novella of the same name by Charles Dickens. It is about a banker called Ebenezer Scrooge (Jim Carrey), whose business partner, Jacob Marley (Gary Oldman), visits Scrooge on the 7th anniversary of his death in the form of a tortured soul wearing the chains he forged in life from his selfishness and greed, who has to roam the Earth as part of his punishment. He warns Scrooge that 3 more ghosts will visit him (the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present  and Christmases Yet to Come – all voiced by Jim Carrey). As warned, these ghosts emerge, and show Scrooge the error of his ways, and what will happen if he does not change.

This story has been told many times, in many different forms. I think this is partly why I was so hesitate to see this movie. Consequently, I think because I love the ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ (1992) that much, I feared that another film might replace this – so held back on watching this Carrey version. Nonetheless, I feel that the reason that the Muppets’ version resonates with me so much is because of the memories tied to this film, rather than it being a stand-out version of this story.

This aside, everything I was told about ‘A Christmas Carol’ (a film directed by Robert Zemeckis – who directed the ‘Polar Express’ (2004)) held true. It was a thoroughly entertaining kids film, incredibly animated. It blew my mind how, at having researched this movie, many voices the likes of Jim Carrey and Gary Oldman perform. They are such diverse and strong actors. Now arguably, Jim Carrey has played very similar roles throughout his filming career (which includes goofball characters in films like ‘Liar, Liar’ (1997), ‘Dumb & Dumber’ (1994), and ‘The Mask’ (1994)). However, he does have an emotional side to him, which cuts through the sometimes too heavy humour he is known for (seen in films like ‘The Number 23’ (2007), and ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ (2004)). This is evident in ‘A Christmas Carol’, and is why I think I liked it so much. I was half expecting to see Carrey voice a Scrooge version of The Grinch (a character he plays in Ron Howard’s 2000 film ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’), but was happily surprised to see his subtle, humbling humour enacted, as opposed to his overt humour, that would have overpowered more important themes and factors in the film, and therefore showed him in a different light.

I thought the animation was amazing! As said above, I wish I had seen this in the cinema, to get the full effect of how great these characters’ features actually were. I thought that the ghosts were terrifying – to the point where, had I been a child, I would have been scared shitless. Then again, I was terrified by certain scenes from old Disney films, like ‘Sleeping Beauty’ (1959)… Anyway, I thought the animation was that good (even without seeing it in HD) that I researched how it was created, and like many films now, this is done through facial recognition. The actor’s have small dots applied to their faces’ and filmed by a series of cameras positioned around them. This is then applied to the face of the animation, making the animations’ expressions look believable and real – which is arguably why I like the animation so much, as Jim Carrey has such an expressive face, which works perfectly on Scrooge.

I liked the humour. It was not overboard, as the theme of this film is a sombre one, and this would have killed the overall purpose of the film. The humorous parts that came through added just the right edge to this film. Similarly, I liked how dark it was. The Ghost of Christmases Yet to Come, amongst other scenes, were gothic and disturbingly good. The cast was strong, and full of distinct characters (despite many actors doing numerous voices in this). Overall, it was recreated very tastefully, and goes to show that much can still be done with a simple story (despite it already having been done). I will definitely put it on my list of Christmas films to watch year in year out – I am just gutted it took me so long to watch!