This might be the creepiest scene in an otherwise great movie. When Buddy the oversized/human elf hears a tune coming from the store locker room, he investigates and finds (what luck) his new crush Jovie, singing to herself in the shower. Naive arctic rube that he is, Buddy takes a seat on the sink and starts softly singing the other half of the duet "Baby It's Cold Outside."
Let's try to put aside the uncomfortable overtones of the song itself -- this is obviously a pretty skeevy move on Buddy's part, even if he "doesn't know" what he's doing (more on that in a sec). To its credit, the movie knows how pervy this is, and Jovie is understandably freaked out when she realizes the new guy at work has followed her into the bathroom.
This is a family movie, though, so the whole thing has to be played off like an ever-so-delightful romantic misunderstanding. The Buddy we've come to know over the last half hour of the movie doesn't belong on a government list of sexual predators. When Jovie confronts Buddy about it later that day, she's surprisingly calm about the whole thing.
Hold up right there, Buddy. That's a bald-faced lie. Even someone as childlike and silly as Buddy HAS to know that people are naked when they get in the shower. No one in their right mind is that stupid, period.
You miiight be able to get away with saying that someone from Santa's Workshop wouldn't understand the bathing rituals of the greater civilized world. Except for the part where Buddy is seen showering in a flashback.
It's probably for the best that the movie glosses over Buddy's uh, indescretions. But the fact remains that this is a guy who went through puberty like the rest of us. Given that outragous lie, Buddy's intentions were probably not 100% innocent.
And if Buddy shares the same human biology as the rest of us, he's got a rude awakening coming his way.
In a movie full of wacky physical comedy, Buddy's obsession with sugary foods is probably the most stomach churning. We're left to infer that sweets are pretty much the only things eaten at the North Pole; Buddy himself says that elves stick to one of four food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup. It makes sense in the context of the story, since Buddy grew up with elves and their world is pretty much all he knows.
We don't know much about the anatomy and digestive process of the locals at Santa's Workshop, so we can assume that they keep healthy by devouring sugar non-stop. But it is not normal for a fully grown man to subsist on a morbid casserole of marshmallows, Pop Tarts and chocolate syrup poured over spaghetti noodles.
The movie makes it painfully clear that Buddy is pure human -- that revelation is what sends Buddy on his trip to New York in the first place. And like every other human, Buddy is bound by certain biological laws. If you or I can't chug a full 2-liter bottle of Coke on a regular basis without going into a diabetic coma, Buddy should have already run into some serious health problems by now. Maybe he's lugging around a keg of insulin off-screen at all times.
As with most classic fish-out-of-water tales, much of the humor in Elf stems from seeing Buddy interact with a world that is completely foreign to him. It's funny watching Buddy eat the used gum on the subway station stairwell because he's probably used to the structures around him being made of edibles. The one thing that keeps his journey of discovery whimsical instead of deeply upsetting is that the audience knows that Buddy really did grow up among elves in Santa's Workshop.
The rest of the people in the movie don't know this until the end, and that's part of the fun. But up until that moment, for all these people know, Buddy is a demented manchild with deep psychological issues. Why else would he immediately disrobe when his dad asks him to "get rid of the elf suit as soon as possible"?
This moment right here should be a wake-up call to everyone in Buddy's life -- from all the evidence they've been shown, they would conclude that this is someone that is clearly unwell. It's kind of shocking that nobody in the movie ever takes Buddy to a therapy session, which some might think would be the first logical step for someone so out of touch with reality. The best we get is some psychobabble from the pediatrician (the one who magically delivers the paternity test results in minutes); he says that Buddy is "regressing to a state of childlike dependency" and that it'll wear off eventually.
Even if we take psychological advice from a dude without a degree in that field, there would have to be a breaking point somewhere. Like say, asking a preteen to be your accomplice while you engage in a federal offense.
Cutting down a tree from Central Park and taking it to your home is, according to New York law, punishable by a fine of $15,000 and/or a year of jail time. Buddy's dad, supposedly the Grinch of this story, is perfectly justified in flipping his shit here.
Buddy's antics were cute when it was disassembling furniture to make toys or hurling snowballs at children at lightning speed. But this act has alarming legal repercussions, which by all means should encourage Buddy's family to take action. Instead, Buddy goes to work with his dad, when he should be learning how to avoid violating local, state and federal ordinances.
Of course, the idea of Buddy in prison just brings up even more questions.
After brawling with the store's St. Nick impostor ("You smell like beef and cheese, you don't smell like Santa."), Buddy ends up in a New York holding cell with other malcontents. He of course uses his movie-guaranteed One Phone Call to get his dad to pick him up. But wouldn't the police be a little concerned about Buddy not existing in any system? Without a license or a social security number or a home address that isn't The North Pole (he hasn't been taken in with his family yet at this point), this crazy dude who thinks he's an elf is basically a John Doe. You'd think at some point during the release process there'd be some kind of paperwork, followed by a line of unanswerable questions from the authorities.
But hey, it is Christmastime -- maybe the cops are glad to have another loony off their hands.
Since Elf is a Christmas film, Official Movie Law mandates that every plot thread must come to a head on Christmas Eve. It just makes things more exciting that way. And while it definitely works for Elf, the dramatic timing makes Walter's "workaholic dad" storyline seem a little... off.
If you remember, Walter has been screwing up just a tad at his job, possibly because he works for a children's book publisher and he's the second grumpiest person in the movie. His boss, the grumpiest person in the movie, gives Walter the typical One Last Chance to set everything right -- by coming in to give a presentation on December 24th.
And? And that's an unreasonable and unrealistic expectation? And it's going to be a travel nightmare for everyone involved? And there are a half-dozen other people coming to this board meeting who have more sway than Walter and would rather spend time with their family and put off the meeting a week or two?
This cruel practice of being forced to working late into Christmas Eve seems disturbingly common in this version of New York City; during the montage of people singing along with the carolers in Central Park, we see that both the publisher's mail room and the toy store employees are still on the job.
Then again, in the real world stores like JC Penney open at 4pm on Thanksgiving to get the jump on Black Friday sales, so this might be the most depressingly realistic thing in the movie.
This is a problem with a lot of Christmas movies, but it's especially prevalent in Elf because of how large a role Santa and his Workshop factor into the plot. On a surface level, seeing a universe where Santa Claus is real is what movies are all about. Especially in light of the awful things currently going on in the world, it's nice to escape into a universe where niceness and naughtiness are rewarded with presents and punished with fossil fuels, respectively.
But the movie's world at large doesn't believe Santa exists, and their cold dead hearts have brought down the cheer reserves to a dangerously low level. If these people don't believe in Santa, what do they think is happening?
Well, yeah. That makes sense to use, because we live in that dreadful reality. Except since Santa is real in the movie, every year millions of disbelieving parents around the world must be shocked to find strange presents under the tree that they didn't wrap and that definitely aren't on their Amazon order history. That people are losing their belief in Santa Claus is incredibly irrational, since so many similar reports will show up over the following days, complete with empirical evidence that would likely include the same set of cookie-stained fingerprints on every gift.
Don't even get me started on how impossible it would be to arrest, book, convict and sentence an immortal old man for an infinite number of breaking and entering incidents.
Tristan can be found ruining Christmas on Twitter.