For every twenty or so bad Christmas movies churned out for TV only to be forgotten in a week, there’s a genuinely good one that becomes a “classic.” Among them are It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989), and Home Alone (1990). For Gen Z, it’s the somewhat surreal and extremely quotable Elf (2003).
In this Movie List from The Film Magazine, we’re looking at why this early 2000s film has held up for younger viewers, in this: 5 Reasons Elf Is a Gen Z Christmas Classic.
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1. Elf’s Use of Absurd Humor
Popular memes often dabble in some form of absurdist humor, which makes Elf’s use of it more relevant than outdated for a movie that is almost 20 years old. From the claymation animals to Buddy’s first experiences of New York, Elf illustrates the absurdity of the mundane.
On his trek from the North Pole to New York, Buddy encounters a raccoon, which he assumes will be as friendly as the claymation Arctic animals he’s used to. He is instead attacked by it. When he sees a diner with a sign that reads “World’s Best Cup of Coffee,” Buddy doesn’t hesitate to run in and enthusiastically congratulate them for the honor, to the bewilderment of customers and staff.
From the spaghetti with maple syrup scene to Buddy’s getting drunk and breakdancing in the Empire State Building mail room, Elf is full of absurd moments that make for a hilarious and memorable movie.
2. Elf’s Quotability
In the era of TikTok “acting” and viral fancams of memorable scenes from films and TV shows, quotability is king. In my own town, a local boutique has a sign out front which reads “Six inch ribbon curls, honey. Six. Inches.”
While some films can fall victim to sacrificing plot for quotability, Elf’s plot is instead carried along by quotes like “You smell like beef and cheese. You don’t smell like Santa.” In the aforementioned case, the quote prompts Buddy to rip the fake beard from a mall Santa’s face and proceed to get into a fight with the imposter. This incident gets Buddy “fired” from his job at Gimbels, but drives him to seek out his younger half-brother, Michael (Daniel Tay), who ends up being one of Buddy’s biggest advocates through the film, especially to their dad Walter (James Caan) and Jovie.
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