MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: ELF and FRED CLAUS

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While Halloween is my favorite holiday and time of year, I do enjoy Christmas so, I thought at some point I should post something more in tune with the holiday season so here is a fun and festive double feature that I like to watch during this merry time of year…

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ELF (2003)

Will Ferrell  teams up with director Jon Favreau (Iron Man 1 & 2), working from David Berenbaum’s script, and they have made a movie that is both entertaining comedy and charming Christmas tale and is considered a modern classic by many. Elf tells the story of a human baby that sneaks into Santa’s (Ed Asner) bag one Christmas Eve, while he is delivering gifts at an orphanage and isn’t discovered till he returns to the North Pole. Brought up by Santa and the elves…Papa elf (Bob Newhart) in particular…Buddy grows into a full grown man (Ferrell) who believes he’s an elf…until he finds out the truth, he’s not a cotton-headed ninny muggins, he’s a human. Faced with the reality that he is not who he thought he was, Buddy runs away to New York City to find his real father, a Scrooge-like book publisher named Walter Hobbs. But trying to bond with his father is the least of Buddy’s concerns as he meets his first crush, Jovie (Zooey Deschanel) when he voluntarily goes to work in Macy’s toy department, and must somehow return the Christmas spirit to New York City and his grumpy father to save Santa and Christmas on Christmas Eve.

I always felt Ferrell is funnier playing naive, instead of obnoxious, and here he is at his best playing the innocent fish out of water, Buddy. The supporting cast under Favreau’s direction know exactly how to play their parts with each actor playing it perfectly on the line between straight and camp..and it works. Caan is particularly effective playing the gruff and cantankerous Hobbs who initially has no interest in the man-child that has shown up at his door dressed like an elf. And he and Ferrell work very well off each other. Mary Steenburgen is also good as Hobbs’ wife…Buddy was sired with an ex-girlfiend who is deceased…who feels compassion for Buddy and would like to see him bond with his long lost dad. And Deschanel makes a sweet yet slightly eccentric love interest for Buddy despite her doubts of his North Pole origins. Favreau also gives the film a wonderfully whimsical tone with a touch of sarcastic humor and the whole flick is delightfully imbued with the holiday spirit. But it is Ferrell’s show and he gives one of his best performances and creates an endearing and wonderfully quotable character in Buddy who’s reactions to his first time in NYC are priceless.

A modern Christmas classic and a simply delightfully enjoyable comedy. Also stars Peter Dinklage as a self-centered and famous children’s book author whom Buddy mistakes for an elf with hilarious results.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 Christmas trees!

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FRED CLAUS (2007)

In this entertaining Christmas flick we find out that Santa Claus (Paul Giamatti) has an older brother named Fred (Vince Vaughn). Never able to live up to his younger brother’s saintly behavior, Fred became bitter and moved off to Chicago to become a repo man who delights in taking back Christmas presents. But Fred is also a shady person and his scams and schemes finally land him in jail. With no way to pay his bail, fine and owed rent, he calls his brother at the North Pole for help. Nicholas…Santa Claus to the rest of us…agrees to help on the condition that Fred come up to the North Pole and help prepare for Christmas, which is rapidly approaching. Being the good soul he is, Nicholas has never given up on or stopped loving his big brother. But Fred’s rivalry with his brother runs deep and his shady ways don’t exactly fit in t the North Pole. And worse still, efficiency expert with a grudge Clyde Northcutt (Kevin Spacey) would love to shut down Santa’s operation and is more then willing to use Fred’s antics to his advantage to do exactly that. But with the help of an elf named Willy (John Michael Higgins), Fred just might turn himself around, thwart Northcutt’s plan, help Willy win the heart of his human crush Charlene (Elizabeth Banks) and find the inner Santa that lies underneath the scoundrel he is on the outside.

Sure the story is cliché and predictable, but director David Dobkin does give the proceedings a sense of charm and fun. He keeps the story moving and the cast, which also includes Rachel Weisz as Fred’s long suffering girlfriend, Wanda and Miranda Richardson as Mrs. Claus, all seem to be having a good time and that is infectious and helps us to enjoy this routine but entertaining holiday tale. Vaughn plays the lovable rogue/loser to perfection and Giamatti is a jolly if not slightly neurotic St. Nick. The production looks good and there are some top notch effects and the film does carry the spirit of Christmas despite the familiarity. Maybe in this case the familiarity adds some charm as we know what to expect, but in this kind of holiday themed tale, it’s what we came to see and enjoy watching it play out. Either way, Fred Clause is a fun holiday movie, no classic, but an enjoyable and harmless bit of Christmas cheer that would make a nice addition to a holiday evening with pumpkin pie and egg nog in front of the TV.

A familiar but fun holiday romp. And who wouldn’t want Elizabeth Banks in her sexy Santa suit under their Christmas tree!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Christmas trees!

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Well Ho Ho Hell-o!

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