“What an adventure I had Thanksgiving Eve: I passed through The 7 Levels of the Candy Cane Forest; into The Sea of Swirly Twirly Gum Drops; over the Bulkeley Bridge; by the Edy’s Booth in the Shell Floor Lobby; and ended up in Auditorium 1 of Rave Buckland Hills Cinema in Manchester CT. That place reminded me of Santa’s Workshop! Except it smelled like popcorn. And everyone looked like they wanted to hurt me.”
The movie that was showing at the cinema was Jon Favreau’s Elf. So you shouldn’t have much trouble guessing what today’s Classic Movie Blog is, right? Elf stars Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf. Well, Buddy isn’t really an elf. He’s a human, but he doesn’t know that. As an infant, through a tremendous stroke of good fortune, he went from an orphanage to the North Pole one Christmas morning where he was adopted by Papa Elf (Bob Newhart). He’s not nearly as good at elf stuff as the other elves, but way better than other people. One day, when full-grown but still innocent, he finds out that his biological father, Walter (James Caan), works in the Empire State Building. So he sets out to find him & tell him how much he loves him. He lands a job as a Christmas Elf in Gimbel’s & meets Jovie (Zooey Deschanel), who thinks he’s weird but finds his youthful exuberance charming. Some of the other great performances in Elf: Mary Steenburgen as Emily, Walter’s wife; Daniel Tay as Buddy’s half-brother, Michael; Ed Asner as Santa; and singer/guitarist Leon Redbone plays Leon the Snowman and has 3 songs on the soundtrack, including a great duet of Baby It’s Cold Outside with Zooey.
Movie directors are a tight-knit group. Directors often homage one another in their work: Spielberg tributes Coppola’s ‘Rumble Fish’ in ‘Schindler’s List’; Woody Allen’s ‘Play It Again, Sam’ is an homage Michael Curtiz’s ‘Casablanca’; and Scorsese’s ‘Hugo’ centers around Georges Méliès’ 1902 short, ‘A Trip to the Moon’. Those 3 great directors all appear in Jan Harlan’s fantastic documentary, ‘Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures’. Some of you may know that I recently taught a course on Kubrick for UConn Waterbury’s OLLI Program. Once you study him, you begin to notice his incredible range of influence – especially if you’re some freak who likes having his picture taken with Keir Dullea while drinking a glass of wine. Seemingly every film these days references Kubrick. As do Stanley’s own films. It’s said Eyes Wide Shut, his final picture, alludes to every one of his other 12 features. I haven’t looked for them all…YET!!! And yes,…,Favreau references Stanley in Elf – twice, in fact! He hints at both Dr. Strangelove and Kubrick’s signature white-on-black storyboarded ‘THE END’. Elf, the 7th highest grossing film of 2003, wasn’t nominated for any Oscars or Golden Globes. But neither fact tells the story of the legacy of the piece: It’s a nonstop tribute to other motion pictures. There are scenes or characters that remind us of: Peter Pan; It’s a Wonderful Life; Miracle on 34th Street; The Poseidon Adventure; the famous Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film; The Fellowship of the Ring; Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer; Edward Scissorhands; A Christmas Story; Leo McCarey’s Love Affair and his own, more renowned remake starring Cary Grant, An Affair to Remember. I’ve embedded the trailer below but it’s just a candy cane. Add the film to your Netflix Queue for your real Christmas prize – you’ll be able to actually see all of these & maybe even find other movie references along the way as you watch Will Ferrell as Jon Favreau’s Elf. 3 Stars!