Monday, December 13, 2010

Why "Elf" Will Soon Replace "A Christmas Story"

When did you first see "It's A Wonderful Life"?


There are lots of stories about how exactly Jimmy Stewart's Christmas film became a staple of the American holiday season, but the fact remains that regular, seasonal broadcasts of that film made it a classic.

When did you first see "A Christmas Story"?


Most of us were used to catching it every year and then a network up and decides to run it for 24 hours every Christmas day, further solidifying it as the perennial Christmas movie of our generation.

But I think "A Christmas Story" has almost run its course and that Jon Favreau's "Elf" will soon become the new holiday staple. Here's why:

You know when they start running this thing? Week after Thanksgiving. If a network is willing to get rolling that early on film and repeating some until Christmas, you can guarantee they've got good science on the type of viewer number it pulls. You can also tell from the lack of hype. If it was a one-time deal, the network would go all out. Not so with "Elf." It's becoming something we expect to see.
"A Christmas Story" capitalized on nostalgia. It's narration form and story arc were perfect for it's time. (Remember how many shows in the 80s used narration?) Today's movie audience is much more cynical that it used to be - we don't trust a trip down memory lane. But we do love silliness.

If we want anything in movies today, it's a little bit of silliness. Look back at some of the most successful comedies in the last ten years and you'll notice one thing common among the all - they're outlandish and fantastical and...well...silly. "Elf" speaks to a culture that's grown up with MadTV and viral video and a resurgence of the 'alternative' comedy scene.

IT'S PERSONALITY DRIVEN There was one star in "A Christmas Story", and that was the narrator's voice. Peter Billingsly is great, but what we're really captivated by is that eloquent prose that drives the film. In the same way, we're loving "Elf" more for who Will Ferrell is than what he does. Since economies and holiday toys and family units are constantly changing on a global level, a film has to be driven by a personality to last like these great Christmas movies. In ten years, "Elf" will be dated. But Buddy will still be funny.

It may not seem so, but there was a time when the "Oh, fudge" scene was a big leap for some. Or that lamp...that beautiful leg lamp...remember that? Now, it seems all pretty tame, but when "A Christmas Story" started making the rounds, it was pretty brave.

I don't think it's a good thing, but the shower scene and numerous insults in "Elf" definitely add some edge to this movie that, for some, elevates it to some higher place in their appreciation. And let's not forget that the premise of the movie is pre-marital sex between high school kids. Merry Christmas, kids!

"Elf" is wacky and memorable and brash. And you may just end up watching it for years and years to come.


Robert Conn said...

Dude, I was 8 and went to Greenspoint Mall to see "A Christmas Story" with my mom and brother when it hit theaters. I believe I also got a soft pretzel.

No my memory is not that good... I just usually made it a habit of getting pretzels at the mall.

Jayson said...

While I think you are right, it won't be a classic in my household or at least in my opinion. Personally I love It's A Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story, and I know Will Ferrell is a popular comedian/actor today, but I just can't stand him.