December 4, 2012

Elf-Man (2012)

PICTURE THIS: an independent, family-friendly holiday movie from the creators of horror films such as House, Scarecrows, and Children of the Corn V – and featuring one of the stars of MTV’s Jackass?

Elf-Man tells the story of the Harper family – scientist dad Eric (The Facts of Life’s Mackenzie Astin), son Ryan (Blake Kaiser), daughter Kasey (Carly Robell), and visiting Gramma (Marty Terry) – who are about to celebrate their first Christmas without their mom, who recently died. After dad invents a powerful energy-conserving device on Christmas Eve, he steps out to run an errand and is abducted by a trio of bumbling kidnappers, led by Jeffrey Combs (of the ‘80s horror classic Re-Animator), who want Dad’s new invention for themselves.

Meanwhile, as Gramma puts the kids to bed, Santa and his sleigh arrive on the rooftop, accompanied by a pair of elves. To make Kasey’s Christmas wish for a happy family come true, he leaves behind one of his elves (Jason “Wee Man” Acuña) to help find Dad. Will the elf lose faith in himself, or will he find his true powers to become a real superhero?

Despite backgrounds in horror, Elf-Man director Ethan Wiley and co-writer Richard Jeffries do a commendable job of creating a balance in tone for kids and adults. They also successfully capture the idyllic setting of Christmas in a small town (Jeffries’ hometown of Frederick, MD), enhanced by the heartwarming score by Joseph Bauer.

That’s not to say Elf-Man is all warm and fuzzies. There’s plenty of action and hijinks to keep the film moving, including the antics of the kids, the elf, and the trio of goofy kidnappers – resulting in laugh-out-loud moments such as a funny homage to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly and a running joke of people mistaking the elf for a troll, a hobbit, a leprechaun, and an Oompa-Loompa.

After the elf lets the kids down by not bringing their dad home, he get a firm talking-to by Dad’s female companion Amy (Mirrely Taylor) as she hands him a superhero suit made by the kids. He then transforms into Elf-Man (play along), pushing his elfin magic to the limit to stop the bad guys, bring back Dad’s invention, and create the happy family Christmas that Kasey asked for in her wish.

Some leaps in logic and continuity in Elf-Man may frustrate grown-ups, but kids won’t care or notice. And the acting range of Acuña and the kids is a bit limited compared to the experienced cast. But Elf-Man is fun family viewing and a nice detour from (or addition to?) the standard Christmas favorites we watch every year.


What did FilmBoy and Jack-Jack think?
They both really enjoyed Elf-Man, laughing often at the stupidity of the kidnappers and rooting against them. Though when Dad and Amy share a mistletoe kiss, FilmBoy deadpanned, “I hate this movie.”

Is it suitable for your kids?
Elf-Man is not rated, but was given the “Family Approved” seal by The Dove Foundation.
Mild Rude Humor: Elf-Man handles a “pooper scooper” for Santa’s reindeer; one of the reindeer farts. Elf-Man belches loudly in the film’s finale.
Violence/Scariness: Dad is held captive by the three kidnappers; they tie him up and put duct tape over his mouth. Kasey cries in bed about her deceased mom, which may be upsetting to some younger children.
Language: Mild name-calling, such as “idiot” and pea-brain.”
Adult Situations: Dad and Amy share a romantic kiss.
Drugs/Alcohol: A man at a bar appears a bit inebriated.

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
Elf-Man can be fun holiday viewing for the whole family, FilmMother included…though I don’t know how she’ll feel about yet another family film featuring a dead mom (i.e. Finding Nemo, Bambi, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs).

Hold still…I’m just gonna take a little off the top…
* Director: Ethan Wiley
* Screenwriters: Richard Jefferies, Ethan Wiley
* Stars: Blake Kaiser, Carly Robell, Jason “Wee Man” Acuña, Jeffrey Combs, Mackenzie Astin, Mirelly Taylor
* MPAA Rating: N/A

Rent Elf-Man from Netflix >>


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