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Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas
Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 11/3/2015
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/9/2015
I've long since stopped wondering "why" Hollywood does anything, because the "why" in that question is typically "for money". Yes, show business is truly a business and while we would love to think that artistic integrity is alive and well, turning a profit is usually at the bottom of any entertainment endeavor. This may sound very cynical, but it's completely true. But, that doesn't stop me from enjoying movies and TV shows, because, after all, they are also there for our enjoyment. Having said that, every once in a while a project comes along that, when we look for the "why", becomes a true head-scratcher. Even beyond the money factor, the thing's existence just doesn't make any sense. Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas definitely falls into that category.
As Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas opens, Santa Clause (voiced by Ed Asner) introduces us to the North Pole, the Elves and the whole process of how Christmas and Christmas toys are put together. Into this mix comes Buddy (voiced by Jim Parsons), an elf who is much larger than his brethren. Santa breaks it to Buddy that he is in fact human and that he accidentally came to live with Santa years ago. Upon learning that he is actually the son of a man named Walter Hobbs (voiced by Mark Hamill), Buddy decides to travel to New York City to meet his real dad. Walter, as it turns out, works in a children's book company, which is desperate for a new idea. This normally grumpy man is stressed out, so he's not really in the mood to meet his long lost elf son. Dejected, Buddy hits the streets, where he meets Jovie (voiced by Kate Micucci), a department store elf, and immediately takes a shine to her. Walter's wife, Emily (voiced by Rachel MacFarlane) and son, Michael (voiced by Max Charles), likewise find Buddy to be charming. Can Buddy get his father to love him, and more importantly, can they all muster up enough good will to save Christmas?
If all of this sounds incredibly familiar, that's because it is. One would assume that Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas is going to be a sequel or at least a continuation in some form of the 2003 Will Ferrell vehicle Elf. But, it's not. This is an animated remake of that movie, with some songs thrown in. As it's just 43-minutes long, it's not a shot-for-shot remake of the movie, but it hits all of the high notes with the only things missing being the Bob Newhart character and Buddy's experiences in the store. Otherwise, it's all there. The Peter Dinklage character has been slightly adapted to be Walter's boss (voiced by Gilbert Gottfried), as opposed to a consultant, but the results are basically the same.
So, let's throw out that question again. Why? At whom is this aimed? The only thing that I can think of is that this was made for those children whose parents thought that Elf was too risque. (Don't laugh. They are out there somewhere.) Otherwise, there's no reason for this specific movie to exist. Yes, Elf, which was already a success when it was released, has gone on to become a widely quoted cult film which appeals to a wide audience, so it would make sense that someone would want to cash in on its success. And if Will Ferrell and Adam McKay weren't up for an official sequel (I double checked, they aren't listed in the credits for this project), it would be perfectly logical to take any sort of spin off in another direction. And, doing something in an animation style which harkens back to the classic Rankin-Bass TV specials was a great idea. But, not bringing in a new story makes it appear as if Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas is simply thumbing its nose at the audience, assuming that we will watch anything.
If one attempts to see aside, the sheer oddness of this television special, it's still very hard to judge. Sure, the story in Elf worked, but we've seen that story, so the overwhelming lack of originality here is hard to ignore. Again, the animation style probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but we are left with a Buddy who not only looks nothing like Will Ferrell, which is understandable, but also fails to look like a human, with his incredibly long neck. Someone made the odd decision to have those characters in the film who don't speak be completely blue. This makes it look like the main characters have invaded some sort of alternate Smurf reality. Jim Parson is fine as Buddy, but A) It's hard to not hear Sheldon, and B) he could have brought a little more deadpan to his acting. In the end, I can only recommend Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas to those who haven't seen Elf, but then I would be forced to ask why they haven't seen Elf. All others need not apply, as this short will must likely just confuse you.
Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas may have also been an ad for Brillo Pads, judging by Emily's hair, on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is excellent and there is a true sense of depth here. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo and surround effects are somewhat mild, but they are definitely there, most notably during the street scenes. The songs (which are very weak), sound fine, and provide some noticeable bass effects.
The lone extra on the Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas Blu-ray Disc is "Elf-in' All the Way: Inside Buddy's Recording Sessions (5 minutes) contains comments from Mark Hamill, Ed Asner, Jim Parsons, Jay Leno, and Co-Director Mark Caballero who describe their work on the film. The piece also takes us inside of the recording studio to see the actors at work.
Review Copyright 2015 by Mike Long