Elf (12/17/12)

ElfMovie Two Hundred Eighty Six

Elf is the story of a child being adopted by elves in the North Pole and returning to New York City as an adult to find his real father.

After a baby crawls into Santa Claus’s (Ed Asner) bag and brought back to the North Pole, Santa and his elves have no choice but to raise him. Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) raises Buddy (Will Ferrell) as his own, but when Buddy towers over all the other elves and isn’t quite the toy-making genius they all are, he starts to suspect something isn’t right. Papa Elf tells buddy that his real father is Walter Hobbs (James Caan) and lives in New York City, so Buddy decides to go and live with his biological father  and spreads holiday cheer to everyone around him.

Yeah, I’m going to be that guy that is still reviewing Christmas movies after Christmas is over, sorry.

Elf is one of the handful of films in my regular holiday rotation but unlike Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story, it’s a film that I generally only watch once a year. I love  Elf almost as much as those movies but I think the lack of nostalgia for me makes Elf a great movie to watch but once a year is enough to satiate me.

I don’t care what anyone says, I will always consider Buddy the Elf to be Will Ferrell’s greatest role. The naive but pure-hearted Buddy is a great character and Ferrell is perfect for it. Elf is a movie that could have easily been crude and loud, but Ferrell keeps it in check and knocks it out of the park. The supporting cast is great too with Zooey Deschanel, Peter Dinklage, Mary Steenburgen, Andy Richter, Kyle Gass, Amy Sedaris, Artie Lange, Jon Favreau (also the director of Elf), etc. While I’m on the subject, why doesn’t James Caan get better work now? He’s great.

Where my two aforementioned favorite Christmas movies both have a sometimes cynical take of the holidays and focus on the follies, Elf focuses on Christmas spirit and believing in miracles. The childlike sense of wonder the film exudes makes you really want to believe in Santa and this really sets it apart. It’s not quite a movie for kids, but it’s definitely a movie for the whole family. There’s the perfect balance of humor for all ages here and throw in all the holiday stuff and Elf is just an absolute joy to watch.

I give it 4 “my finger has a heartbeat”s out of 5.

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Goin’ South (6/1/12)

Goin' SouthMovie One Hundred Thirty Four

Goin’ South is a pseudo-Western about a fugitive that gets saved from the gallows by marrying a woman in town.

As Henry Moon (Jack Nicholson) is running from the law, he thinks that crossing the border to Mexico is going to save him. That is, until his pursuers cross the border right behind him and drag him back to the States. Moon finds himself in a small town in Texas where the sheriff (Christopher Lloyd) wants to see him hanged. Before he is about to be hanged, Moon finds out about an ordinance that allows a woman to save a man from his death for his hand in marriage. Moon winds up married to Julia Tate (Mary Steenburgen), who only wants Moon’s help mining, but their rocky relationship ends up turning into more than they expected.

Goin’ South is a weird movie. It’s part Western, part comedy, part romance, but even the comedy is uneven. Nicholson actually directed this too, but his best work is done in front of the camera (both here and in general). One thing that I found quite distracting his Nicholson’s speech in this. I couldn’t tell if his Texas accent is just weird sounding or if he spent the entire production doing cocaine. I would believe both.

There is a lot to like about Goin’ South, especially if you’re like me and love watching Nicholson on screen. While Nicholson’s role in this one is not one of my favorites it’s worthwhile. The best recommendation I could give for this would be as part of some amazing Nicholson marathon, which I think I should do sometime. Goin’ South is mostly forgettable but at times is genuinely funny and for the most part, is entertaining.

I give it 3 “How’s about a little desert?”s out of 5.

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