12/1/12

Elf-Man (2012) It’s a Bird. It’s a Plane! It’s Wee-Man Vs. Re-Animator?

December is finally here, and as readers of the LBL know, I always enjoy watching all the naughty and nice that holiday films have to give. So that means I have to take a lot of risks at time, and today’s film certainly was one. What I didn't expect was that it would have so many connections that were right in my wheelhouse and, most shockingly of all, that it would actually be kind of, in a way, alright. Boy, that would look great as a blurb on the poster on a poster for Elf-Man. My first exposure to the film was seeing a two by three picture for it on my local Redbox, and the title caught my eye instantly. It sounded like the original, overly descriptive title for Will Ferrell’s Elf, and visions of a knock off film danced in my head like the much talked about sugar plums. When it slid out of the machine, I had no idea Elf-Man starred the shortest member of the Jackass crew as well as having connections to House, House II: The Second Story, and Re- Animator. However it would become a light, almost magical Christmas treat.


Elf-Man (Jason ‘Wee-Man’ Acuna), who is never given a proper name apart from elf or the titular heroic honorific, is on his first run as a helper on Santa’s sleigh after years of toiling in the toy shop. Unfortunately, this means he is on reindeer poop patrol. Meanwhile, Eric (Mackenzie Austin) has made a massive scientific breakthrough, a source for infinite energy, which is only important because the gang of thugs lead by Mickey (Jeffery Combs) wants to get their hands on it. Eric is not much of a Christmas guy since his wife died a while back, but he’s trying to do the best he can for his kids Kasey and Ryan (Carly Robel and Blake Kaiser). When the kids Gramma (Marty Terry) comes to visit, she finds an old elf toy in the Christmas things and tells a tale of wishing for an elf’s help on Christmas Eve. Taking the story to heart, Kasey wishes for an elf to come and make her family happy again, and by happenstance (or was it Christmas magic?), Elf-Man gets left behind at the kid’s house. When Mickey and his thugs kidnap Eric, Kasey turns to Elf-Man, who is, of course, essentially a coward, to save the day.

From the moment in the synopsis when I mentioned that Elf-Man was on poop duty, I assume most of you picked up on the level of sophisticated humor going on here. There’s more than a few scatological jokes, and gross out gags like Granny’s eggnog made with turkey eggs and buttermilk are common as well. Here’s the thing. It’s not made for my refined sensibilities as a movie viewer. It’s made for kids, but there’s a part of me that can turn off the critical eye more during a Christmas movie if it’s got its heart in the right place. Elf-Man for me really did. The core themes are self esteem and family, and that’s never a bad lesson for anyone. The fact that there are more pratfalls than a marathon of Three Stooges shorts is also not such a bad thing. We all know Wee-Man can take a fall, but Jeffery Combs especially gets into the physical humor and shines. Now I don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression. It isn't going to be the next Miracle on 34th Street. Hell, Elf-Man isn’t even the next Prancer, but it is sweet, stupidly funny, and enjoyable to watch.

In the teaser I mentioned the many horror movie connections, and really this whole project was a step outside of the comfort zone for practically everyone involved. Writer/director Ethan Wiley is best known to horror buffs for his screenplay House and the follow up House II: The Second Story which he also directed. In fact, every other credit in his IMDB, down to the nod for his work on the jam “X is the loneliest number” for Jason X, is for a horror or genre title. It’s no wonder that he pun in a couple of horror actors into his Christmas movie. Jeffery Combs, star of Re- Animator, of course tops that list, and he tops the list of reasons to see Elf-Man. Combs so neatly chewed up the scenery it could be unfolded like a paper snowflake for all to marvel at. Marty Terry, the Grandma, appeared in Children of the Corn II, Cry Wolf, and Black Rainbow, and if you count some of the scenes in the Jackass films, and I do, then Wee-Man should be added to the list as well. Jason Acuna, who should drop the 'Wee' moniker, is actually pretty good as Elf-Man. He’s not the best actor, but he is trying to give a performance though often it gets the better of him in the heavier moments. I could see him transitioning to making more kids films, but he needs to leave his nickname and Knoxville connections at the door.

If you've ever wondered what it would be like if Jeffery Combs had a couple of thugs, a big black guy and a dude with an outrageous French accent, and did his version of the robbers in Home Alone, then you’re in luck because that’s what you’ll get. The unfortunate part of the film is that the family, Eric and his kids, are so milquetoast that it’s hard to feel much of anything about them. The humanizing element was the Grandmother, and she got far too little of the time. I didn't even mention the love story between Eric and the gal from the butcher shop who looked like half price Penelope Cruz, but it really just took up time and seemed a bit out of place. The dead mother already sets the movie up on a weird tone, and then pushing in adult flirting and such is a layer that I’m not sure needed to be in there. If you’re looking for something stupid to get you in the holiday mood or you need something tolerable to watch with the kiddos, then I think you could do a damn sight worse then Elf-Man as far as even this years’ new batch of Christmas films go. Well, that’s going to do it for today, but I’ll be opening my sack of goodies to add to the Christmas vault here at the LBL all month long.  

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