Everything I Need to Know, I Learned From ‘Elf’

On this, the first official day, I am paying my respects to Christmas countdown season with an homage to one of the finest films of our time: Elf.

I never wrote about this film last holiday season because, well, there are so many great Christmas things that is literally impossible to cover everything in just a few short weeks. Never fear! The most wonderful time of the year is back ’round!


1. The best way to spread Christmas cheer
…is singing loud for all to hear!

Obviously, this is the first lesson that most people probably think of when they think of Elf. Buddy’s innocence is so refreshing, and while he is trying to convince Jovi, the beautiful young human-dressed-as-an-elf that he just met, that anyone can sing–“it’s just like talking, except longer and louder, and you move your voice up and down”–his “boss” gets mad at him for singing in the North Pole. Naturally, Buddy corrects him. There is tons of singing in the North Pole because…well see aforementioned lesson.

I must agree, though. I love carolers. My friends are in a barbershop quartet called “The Three Wise Men” (there are four of them though, get it?! It’s funny!) and pretty much my favorite thing in the world is when they sing Christmas songs in Christmas outfits. So much cheer in my heart.

PS obviously if you didn’t realize it, I should point out that Jovi is played by our own Miss Deschanel.

2. The real food groups.

“…candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup.”

I don’t think I like candy corns, or syrup, but I get down with a candy cane.

Turns out, I would make a terrible elf.

3. Be politically correct. 
So, Buddy’s birth father works for a children’s book publishing company where he is a super stuffy big wig guy until Buddy teaches him how to be a real person (more on that in a minute, obvi). Walter and his cohorts decide to recruit Miles Finch for some good ideas on a new story idea for a kids’ book, and when Buddy bursts into the office, ecstatic and in love, he continually insults Miles Finch.

Because you see, Miles Finch is what civilized people would call a “little person,” but rude and politically incorrect people would refer to as a “midget,” which delusional man-elves would call, well, an “elf.” Not even that, but an “angry elf.” 

PS since this is the internet, I feel like I am obligated to be like, “WHOO PETER DINKLAGE” because it seems like people do and say that a lot lately, but I don’t watch Game of Thrones, and I am just going to take a wild guess that that’s where it’s coming from.

4. Smile a lot.

Gimbel’s Manager: Why are you smiling like that?
Buddy: I just like to smile, smiling’s my favorite. 

I love this exchange because it is almost the opposite of what usually happens at work, like someone will tell me to smile instead of asking why I’m smiling–which for the record, you should never do. Never, ever tell someone to smile ever it is the worst, stupidest thing to say to another human being ESPECIALLY A MAN TO A WOMAN but I digress because this is supposed to be a positive lesson.

In fact smiling is my favorite too (definitely not work, which is what the Gimbel’s manager tells Buddy is his new favorite), but it has to be genuine.

I hear I have a killer smile. In fact, I have heard it for years, and I am certainly hoping I have a Julia Roberts effect on people because her smile is the best.

PS I love Faizon Love, where you at, boy?

5. How to answer a telephone. 
Almost nothing makes me laugh so hard as when Buddy answers his father’s professional telephone line with the hilarious quip, “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?” Every time a phone rings, especially at work, I want to answer the phone in the same way, and because life is beautiful, my favorite barista actually did answer the phone like that once. Thought I’d never stopped laughing. Maybe I haven’t.

Life is too short for “hello”s. (NOT FOR HELLOGIGGLES THOUGH.)

6. How to survive in New York. 
One of the worst things about me is that I have never been to New York, which is kind of a lie because I flew into JFK once and was there for an hour, but really, that doesn’t count. The only thing I did in New York was buy an Esquire Magazine with Leonardo DiCaprio on it (it was during Shutter Island promo) and anyway, I could have done that anywhere.

That all being said, I have fought with myself since 2003 (when Elf came out) to not define New York in my head. Most of it comes from Santa’s advice to Buddy before he leaves the North Pole. But I mean, who better to learn stuff from than Santa?

Santa: Well, there are some things you should know. First off, you see gum on the street, leave it there. It isn’t free candy. Second, there are, like, thirty “Ray’s Pizzas.” They all claim to be the original, but the real one’s on 11th. And if you see a sign that says “peep show”, that doesn’t mean that the are letting you look at the new toys before Christmas.

Really, that is all the lesson you need in all of life, am I right?

7. The perfect date.
When Jovi agrees to “get food” with Buddy, we then get to experience one of the cutest first dates in the history of cinema. OKAY I am not even joking, I hate first dates so much because I get all nervous and crazy and anxious–especially when it comes to the “who pays for what?” issue and the goodnight kiss issue–basically I make mountains out of mole hills and ruin everything. My perfect date would be something like Buddy and Jovi’s, though. He takes her to get a crappy cup of coffee, they admire a huge Christmas tree, and eventually they go ice skating where he kisses her–and misses. Like seriously, the cutest.

Boys who want to be my boyfriend: take me to a huge Christmas tree, and I’ll be in love.

Buddy: I think you’re really beautiful and I feel really warm when I’m around you and my tongue swells up. So… do you wanna eat food?

8. Mall Santas are just trying to do their jobs.
I. Love. This. Scene. 

I mean, who doesn’t? Who wouldn’t love a crazed Will Ferrell attacking Artie Lang? Who can’t relate to feeling betrayed by a fake Santa? Who doesn’t now yell “SANTA! SANTA! I KNOW HIM!” when pretty much anyone says Santa Claus?

But poor Artie Lang was just trying to do his seasonal job so he could buy gifts for his kids or something equally depressing to think about, so kids just let fake Santa be fake Santa.

Though props to Faizon for stepping in, I sure do love me a Black Santa Claus!

9. Family > Work
Obviously one of the main themes in this movie, and probs pretty much any Christmas movie and/or family movie from the 90s is Dad Too Busy At Work Until Something Happens and He Realizes His Kids and Wife are More Important. Did anyone really have a dad like that? I want to hear about it! Anyway, Walter is on the naughty list assumedly because he is a big jerk who pays no attention to his son Michael (who seems like his last name could be Corleone, just sayin’) and he is really resistant in accepting the fact that Buddy is his son annnnnnnd he seemingly hates Christmas since he is willing to work through it to get the next kids’ book published because he ruined the last one by not caring, so also he hates kids.

But don’t worry! Christmas cheer fixes everything, and by the end of the movie, he is belting “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” with the rest of the, well, town. Good man, Walter! Family is much more important than providing an income for your family.

PS I know this movie came out in 2003, not the 90s, give me some credit.

10. Believe in the spirit of Christmas.
And so, like we all should already know, believing in the spirit of Christmas is the most important thing during the holiday season, or even in June. Unless you are Jewish, or you don’t celebrate Christmas. But for those of us who do, we should know that even though there are Christmas seasons when things aren’t perfect, there is still always the spirit. Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings, and all that hoopla.

In this case, there is room for everyone on the nice list, so act accordingly.

Featured image via globalzombie, syrup image via goodfoodstories, Miles Finch image via hark.com, Faizon image via collider.com