Monday Morning Movie Review: Ponty’s Top Ten Worst Films: #6: Elf (2003)

We’re back with another of Ponty’s picks for the worst films of all time.  As always, Ponty delivers an interesting choice, this time for #6:  the Christmas film Elf (2003).

Elf is one of those movies I’ve never seen in its entirety, but I know about all-too-well.  It seems that every girl I’ve ever met loves this movie, but not just with some yuletide enthusiasm; they act like it’s the greatest Christmas film ever made.

I don’t know why that is.  Is it because women are incredibly social creatures, and bandwagon about everything remotely popular?  Is it because of the story about a son meeting his deadbeat dad and falling in love with a hipster?  Or is it just harmlessly funny, the kind of non-edgy humor women tend to prefer?

Whatever the reason, it makes me dislike the movie more, perhaps channeling the contrarian curmudgeon inside of me.

Needless to say, I’m with Ponty 100% on this one.

With that, here is Ponty’s review of 2003’s Elf:

I wanted to do Killer Sofa (2019) this week, a Ronseal film which does exactly what it says on the tin, but Tina wouldn’t let me. Granted, she has a point. It has its moments but when the only good thing about the film is a piece of furniture, you have to ask yourself what the point is. As it is, I’ve had to reach into my memory banks to find a film bad enough to warrant its place in this list and one that I could remember so here we are.

Last year, I wrote a piece for TCW on Christmas films:

As bad as many of them are, I quite like the cheap, Hallmark type movies. They’re incredibly formulaic – guy/girl hates Christmas, they meet someone and start to fall in love, all the while discovering the true meaning/beauty of Christmas, the end – but I find them quite endearing. I’m not a great fan of big budget Christmas movies with people you’ve heard of but there are the odd gloss laden holiday films I like, mostly because they add a touch of something else to make them interesting, like Die Hard (1988), guns and Alan Rickman. Away from the fun guns and ammo Christmas flicks and the cheesy Hallmark types, you have some truly horrible offerings – Bad Santa (2003), Christmas with the Kranks (2004), and The Holiday (2006) are just a few but there’s one, for me, that stands out as proper Yuletide dross and that is Elf (2003). Richard Curtis, who has directed movies fit for hell, recently said that Will Ferrell should have been nominated for an Oscar for that film. Considering the tripe that Curtis has chucked out, I don’t think he’s exactly qualified to judge either a good film or performance. We’ll revisit that particular nugget further on in my list but for today, let’s concentrate on this steaming pile of excrement.

Elf is about a human, Buddy (Will Ferrell), who has grown up in the North Pole and learns that his biological father is not an elf but a publisher living in New York. He travels to New York to find him and experiences life in the Big Apple, his strange behaviour causing consternation in some, pity in others and affection from a few, Jovie (Zooey Deschanel) in particular. His father, Walter (James Caan), has no idea he had a son and once the DNA test has proved they are related, Walter reluctantly brings Buddy into his family. Problems at work result in Buddy offending one of Walter’s clients and he is temporarily disowned before Walter realises his mistake and goes after his son, reuniting in a teary, uncomfortable and saccharine sweet scene that makes you vomit into your popcorn.

A year later, Buddy is writing a book about his life and is married, with child, to Jovie. Falling in love and having a child with a man who acts like a child is a bit weird to me, especially if said woman acts like an adult, but hey ho, the film asks us not to think about that strange setup so on we go.

I think one of my main issues with this film is the titular role itself and the man who plays it. I think it might have been half decent had Elf been played by a straight actor rather than a comedy actor. There’d have been some real poignancy to the search for his father, the scenes would have been more touching and emotionally charged. As it is, they are cringe worthy and uncomfortable and you find yourself struggling between laughing at his plight and innocence and pitying him. Or maybe it’s just Will Ferrell. I quite enjoy some of his films – Blades of Glory (2007), Anchorman (2004) – but let’s face it, there are no two or three or more faces of Will Ferrell. What you see is what you get. He has no hidden depths or surprising qualities. He’s loud, obnoxious and overly loquacious and that’s all you’re getting out of him, whether you like it or not. It works in some films but I believe it was wrong for this part. Could another comedian have played the role? Maybe but I still think you’d have got the same result. While the makers were going for humorous, poignant and charming, what you actually get is Will Ferrell poncing about in an elf suit being Will Ferrell.

James Caan never seems quite at home in this movie and Zooey Deschanel has all the acting talent of a candy cane. As for the writing and direction, it’s as formulaic as any Christmas movie but what could they do with it really, when you have a loose cannon like Will Ferrell on set?

I know there are a lot of people who like this film and I’ll never understand why, when there are better family offerings at Christmas, like both versions of Miracle on 34th Street (1947 & 1994), Home Alone (a 1990 guilty pleasure) and It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). You have some great standout performances in those films and a multitude of actors you can easily pick out of a crowd. What does anyone remember about Elf, aside from a grown adult running around in a colourful suit? Not much really and that’s why it’s on my list.


16 thoughts on “Monday Morning Movie Review: Ponty’s Top Ten Worst Films: #6: Elf (2003)

  1. Cheers Tyler. 🙂

    Tina doesn’t like this film so it’s many women not all women. She’s a Christmas movie buff but she thinks this a pointless film, a complete waste of time. I couldn’t agree with her more.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. By and large, I don’t like comedies (altho’ I’m not altogether certain that is what this movie is supposed to be). I don’t like stupid comedians, of which group Ferrel is a member in good standing. That being my ‘reality’, thank you for the reassurance that I’m right.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t mind Ferrell in films to which he’s suited, like Blades of Glory. That’s a great film but he’s out of his depth in this one.

      As for comedies, I like to laugh and there are some good comedies out there. It’s just finding them. Anything made around now will probably make you depressed rather than laugh.

      Liked by 2 people

      • _Blades of Glory_ is classic Will Ferrell—definitely his kind of role.

        Yeah, so many recent flicks are duds, even the horror ones. On Shudder, I tend to shy away from anything released in the last few years. That said, there are some hidden gems, but wokeness tends to be the real monster in monster movies these days.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. If you pop over to TCW and the article on Woke, you’ll see a link I put up by The Critical Drinker, in which Wokeness has wrapped its ugly tentacles. This time, it’s the Incredible Hulk and Disney’s latest incarnation: She Hulk – Attorney at Law. It looks as crap as it sounds.

    Liked by 1 person

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