Film: Elf (2003)
Audience: Antony, Caroline, Leanne & Mark
Synopsis: A baby living in an orphanage manages to stow away in Santa’s sack and get inadvertently taken to the North Pole, where he is adopted and raised by elves. He grows up oblivious to the fact that he is three times the size of his fellow elves and lacks their expert toy making skills. When he finally discovers his true identity he ventures off to New York City in search of his birth father. A stranger in a foreign land, he experiences Christmas in New York, elf-style!
Starring: Will Ferrell, Edward Asner & Bob Newhart
IMDb Rating: 6.8/10
Reel Life Rating: 4/5
Buddy, the man-elf, finds himself happy, at home and belonging to the elf community in the North Pole but upon discovering his identity as a human being he decides, with the blessing of Papa Elf and Santa, to embark on a life-changing journey to New York City to find his birth father. His focus is on having a relationship with his father and doing all the things fathers and sons do (albeit when they’re small children – like “snuggling”!) but his father, and the rest of New York City, don’t accept this man who ‘thinks’ he’s an elf and all his strange customs while Buddy is struggling to get to grips with theirs.
After repeated rejections, humiliating treatment and name-calling Buddy is unphased in his pursuing of his father. While some begin to warm to him and his funny but rather useful talents (decorating a Christmas toy department, super snowball making/throwing and so on) and his father begins to tolerate him a little his father then suddenly rejects Buddy entirely when his status and success at work are challenged due to a classic Buddy misunderstanding. Buddy finally feels this rejection for what it is and runs away only to stumble upon Santa who has broken down in Central Park. Buddy is suddenly the only one who can help Santa and with his knowhow and a little help and ‘Christmas Spirit’ from his now ‘converted’ family and friend, Buddy saves the day!
(Review by Leanne)
Discussion and application
The parallels to Christian life were astounding! Buddy is your classic Christian living in a world that to all intents and purposes is alien to him. As Christians we often clash with popular culture but all too often we dilute the applications of our faith in order to fit in with that culture instead. Buddy, on the other hand, does not dilute his faith in order to fit in. Conversely he is SO CONVINCED of the truth (that Santa is real and lives in the North Pole and elves are real and they live and serve him) that nothing the world throws at him; no cynicism, ridicule or disbelief wavers his faith. Buddy remains faithful and steadfast, something us Christians can learn a lot from. The North Pole represents heaven. Although Buddy was born in the ‘world’, New York City, he is adopted into the North Pole (heaven) and becomes a native there instead. Similarly, as we become Christians we are adopted into this new family of believers and that’s where our alienation from the world and popular culture at large begins. For Buddy, the North Pole is true and right and real so therefore New York is wrong and likewise for Christians.
Buddy is also your classic evangelist. This is not done in a deliberate ‘I intend to evangelise these people’ way but comes from a natural desire to share the truth with those he meets. He is consistent in his beliefs and unashamedly so. He reveals the false beard of a fake Santa (something akin to revealing false teachers of the gospel!!) and wins over others to belief by being himself. Buddy’s brother is the first true convert. Buddy wins him over with his character and his skills so that he trusts him and so follows him to Santa. Buddy’s father is initially very skeptical and condescending but is finally won over by Buddy’s love and consistency and by being confronted with the truth of Santa with his own eyes. Jovi, a friend from a job he stumbles into has only a small faith but by putting her trust in it, without yet having seen Santa herself, shares that faith with others, thus converting a whole crowd awaiting news of the mysteries going on in Central Park. Then Santa is revealed to the masses.
Then there’s the naughty list. This is akin to those who are unbelievers (although it focuses solely on good deeds rather than faith). Santa says of those on the naughty list: “They lose sight of what’s important in life. Maybe all they need is a little… Christmas Spirit” (you fill in the difference!).
Throughout the whole film there is an emphasis on the Christmas Spirit being needed. Santa says “Christmas Spirit is about believing, not seeing.”. Herein lies a challenge for us as Christians. Jesus says to doubting Thomas “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 21: 29).
As Christians watching Elf we were challenged first of all in our lives to be true, faithful servants, content to stand out as different because of that and natural and at ease in the sharing of our faith with others. We were challenged to be Christians without fear of ridicule or isolation because we are convinced of what is true and that heaven is our true home.
Excellent film and fascinating discussion!