Ah, Elf, the film that many think would be this generation’s ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’… which subtly forgets that this generation still has Bedford Falls, and that Channel 4 not showing ‘Elf’ two years in a row is not a national disaster. So it’s a delight to read Gary Bainbridge’s view on the film…
It has the rigid journey of a sat nav and the emotional heft of a Steven Moffat Doctor Who episode.
And that is because it is so relentlessly sweet, like the four food groups I mentioned earlier. Because a good Christmas film needs grit. You have to earn that happy ending.
Look at A Christmas Carol. Scrooge is a monster. But he’s laid low by the four ghosts, utterly destroyed, so that when he’s redeemed it means something, it has weight. Look at It’s A Wonderful Life. When George Bailey is on that bridge, he’s suicidal. It’s jet black. His life has failed. His business has failed. Mr Potter is going to destroy his town. That syrupy ending, where the people of Bedford Falls come to his aid, and he has his family about him is earned. It means something.
But when Buddy the elf is on his bridge, it means nothing. He’s been rejected by a man he didn’t even know existed until about three days before. He’s still got a dad who loves him in the North Pole. Boo-fucking-hoo. He’s only been missing half an hour.