Santa (Edward Asner) made a bit of a mistake and brought a human baby back to the North Pole. Rather than returning him to the orphanage from whence he came, the baby, Buddy, is adopted by a senior Elf, Pappa Elf (Bob Newhart) and raised to be another Elf. But things are not smooth sailing, and eventually, Buddy must learn the truth. Discovering that his mother has passed away but his father, Walter (James Caan) is still alive, adult Buddy (Will Ferrell) goes to New York to find him, and find a new life.
Around Christmas time there are always a lot of lists about best Christmas movies. I usually ignore them – I’m not really into Christmas films. There seem to be increasing numbers of houses with light displays each year in Melbourne, but regardless of complaints about the commericialisation, we don’t have the insanity that Christmas in these movies seems to have. I don’t mind a film with a bit of schmatlz or corniness, but I do find a lot of Christmas films a bit hard.
Elf is great. It’s really funny and great for kids without getting too racy, but it is not stupid. It is made very easy to totally buy into the innocence and naivety of Buddy, and how difficult he may find fitting in to modern New York. I doubt a total scrooge would enjoy it, but me? Bring it on.
There are the original parents of the family; Frank Buckman (Jason Robards) and his wife Marilyn (Eileen Ryan) (oh, and one of their mothers is still around, played by the delightful Helen Shaw). They have four kids; Gil (Steve Martin), Helen (Diane Wiest), Susan (Harley Jane Kozak) and Larry (Tom Hulce). Gil, married to Karen (Mary Steenburgen) is dealing with an anxious son, a quite normal daughter and a crazy toddler and is trying to figure out how he feels about the fourth which is on the way. Helen has a son, Garry (Joaquin Phoenix) who is reclusive since his father left and a rebellious daughter, Julie (Martha Plimpton) who is dating drag- racing drop-kick Tod (Keanu Reeves). Susan is married to Nathan (Rick Moranis) who is desperate to ensure their daughter is a genius. And Larry turns up out of the blue being chased by gangsters who owe him money and with a surprise son, Cool, in tow.
A lot going on? Yup. Funny? Very. Heartbreaking? Yes, at times. Does it stand up to time? I think so. Some of the fashions are dated, but not in a bad way. I’d be interested to see how much would change if such a film were made now. Possible not a lot. It’s clever, entertaining and I totally enjoy it every time I see it.
Parenthood was nominated for Oscars for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Dianne Wiest) and Best Music, Original Song (Randy Newman, I Love to See You Smile).
Watching this in the cinema back in 2008, I spent the first half of the film laughing my butt off and then, very suddenly, I found it totally not funny. It was a very strange experience. I had to revisit, and what did I find? I didn’t laugh at all. Well, not until the musical number at the end, which did give me a few giggles.
The plot is that there are two men, Brennan (Will Ferrell) and Dale (John C Reilly) both in their late 30s, both unemployed and living with their single parents. The parents (Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins) fall in love and marry and the two brothers have to learn to share.
There are some pretty funny lines, and some ridiculous slapstick scenes, but essentially, it didn’t work for me. I find that both John C Reilly and Will Ferrell do a variety of different comedy, but it is the really dumb ones like this that I just don’t like.