There once was an elf named Buddy. Except he wasn’t an elf. He was human. But for many years, he thought he was an elf. He dressed like an elf and made toys with the elves, and everything was fine (except for the fact that he kind of stunk at making toys). Actually, he was the worst toymaker ever. While the other elves were busy making a thousand Etch A Sketches a day, Buddy could only make 85. What a cotton-headed ninny muggins! As much as he loved Christmas toys, he just wasn’t cut out for an assembly line job.
Then, one day while eavesdropping, he discovered that the elves were lying to him. Strangely, the elves didn’t see this giant human standing right next to them while they were talking about him, but that’s Hollywood for you. Buddy learned that he was just a human, and his playboy of a father, who didn’t even know he had a son, lived in New York City. This was a problem because Buddy lived at the North Pole his entire life. So, when Buddy decides to pay a surprise visit to his dad, the hilarity that ensues is not entirely unexpected.
It’s unfair to say that Buddy is just a human. In Elf, Will Ferrell put his entire heart and soul into the role. Jon Favreau is a genius for casting him. He isn’t just physically bigger than the elves; his spirit is also larger. There’s nothing Buddy loves more than Christmas. That’s why it initially hurt him so much to learn he was human. He loved being an elf! Those silly little elves shouldn’t have lied to him. They should all be on Santa’s naughty list. However, no. 2 on “The Code of Elves” states, “There’s room for everyone on the nice list.” That’s a sweet little loophole they have there. Either way, Buddy gets a permanent spot on the nice list. All he wants to do is make people happy and spread Christmas cheer. He doesn’t need a set of codes to remind him to “Treat every day like Christmas.” He has a more positive outlook on life than any human or elf you’ll ever meet. This is most evident when he tells his confused boss:
“I just like to smile. Smiling’s my favorite.”
Santa has to explain to Buddy: “Some people, they just lose sight of what’s important in life. That doesn’t mean they can’t find their way again. Maybe all they need is just a little Christmas spirit.” Buddy excitedly responds, “I’m good at that!” He’s right. He’s better at it than anyone else. Unfortunately, that’s not how he’s perceived. Like Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street, the majority of people think Buddy is insane. All because he walks around wearing an elf outfit. Walk around NYC for ten minutes, and you’ll see fifty other things that are much crazier.
The thing about Buddy is he’s very . . . different. But he’s different in a good way. He is, and forever will be, young at heart. He’s also extremely innocent and gullible, which can be dangerous (and pretty awkward) in today’s world. In the course of a couple of hours, he gets hit by a taxi, eats gum off a dirty subway railing, sprays perfume in his mouth, gets into a brawl with a department store Santa, and gives his dad sexy lingerie as a gift “for that special someone” (awkwarrrrd). Most people would be mortified by these events, but Buddy doesn’t care. He just laughs it off. Is it because he’s psycho? No. Is it because he’s a sugar junkie? No. Well, maybe. I mean, he eats a lot of sugar. It’s a part of all four of his food groups. That’s not normal. He keeps a bottle of syrup in his shirt sleeve. Who does that? But, is his excitement that strange? Honestly, who doesn’t have fun running through a revolving door? Or pushing all the buttons in an elevator? Or putting syrup and Pop-Tarts and M&M’s all over their spaghetti? Okay, that last one is a little weird. Again, waaay too much sugar. But, sugar or no sugar, Buddy is living life.
A lot of adults are the opposite of Buddy. His father (played perfectly by veteran James Caan), for example, is a boring cynic whose only concern is money. He barely has time for his family, let alone Christmas. While he’s in his office, ignoring his son and failing at life, Buddy is in the basement laughing, dancing, and bringing joy to the blue-collar workers (and not just because he’s hammered). This is why it’s so sad when Walter yells at him and kicks him out of his life. On the flip side, it’s so uplifting when old Scrooge McDuck has a change of heart, tells his client “up yours,” and runs to Buddy’s aid.
Somehow, Buddy can change everyone’s heart. His unwavering spirit is infectious. When he first meets Jovie (played by the lovable Zooey Deschanel), she tells him, “I’m just trying to get through the holidays.” Shocked, Buddy cries:
“Get through? Christmas is the greatest day in the whole wide world!”
Soon enough, Jovie is laughing, skating, and living the dream with Buddy, while Frank Sinatra’s “You Make Me Feel So Young” plays in the background. This perfect song choice sums up the positive effect Buddy and Christmas can have on a person.
Buddy, along with his family and friends, saved Christmas.
Or, was it Christmas that saved them?