Getting jiggy with it since 1996

Elves on strike strike out

Monday, December 10, 2007

I'm sure somebody somewhere thought this was a good idea, but like so many things, it was an idea that should have been quickly forgotten. I'm talking, of course, about Elf Bowling: The Movie, a computer-generated holiday film from the makers of, well, Elf Bowling: The Movie. It involves the "real story of Santa" and his brother Dingle (yep, Dingle Kringle), pirates (yes, pirates) who bumble their way to the north pole, and hilarity ensues. See, eventually, the elves go on strike, Dingle takes charge, and it's up to Santa to, yep, you guessed it, save Christmas.

First, I haven't played the game, but I understand it's a zany kind of fun. From what I've seen, you play Santa, you're bowling, and the elves are pins. What a riot.

I also understand it's a slight bit on the raunchy side. We're not talking Grand Theft Auto here or anything, but the elves taunt Santa with a few phrases I doubt I want my kid repeating to his fourth grader teacher. That's the first problem. Some of the attitude from the game apparently made its way into the movie. If we were talking about a summer popcorn flick I would probably be okay with it, but frankly I don't like it in my holiday fare. "What the fa-la-la is going on" was one of the tamer ones, as were the elves customary cheer. Bear in mind, I'm speaking as a parent here.

Second, the animation was spotty at best. There were some areas that were beautifully rendered, particularly the explosions (yes, explosions), and the backgrounds and whatnot were nice to look at. But the characters were something else. Santa and Dingle were adequate (though I would have liked to see Santa put on more weight over the years), but the elves were another matter. One the whole, the three main elves were okay, but I was a little creeped out by the fact they had no nostrils. The other elves were stock animations that tended to repeat in a loop, reminiscent of those "scrolling backgrounds" in The Flintstones. There were also times in particular when characters were supposed to be running, and they must have been having one of those "running through molasses" dreams, because they seemed a little slow. I did like the surfer dudes (yes, surfer dudes), though.

The majority of the voice acting was well-done. Joe Alasky, who've I've liked since even before his Tiny Toon days, was good as Santa, though I would have liked him to lose his pirate-talk after a couple hundred years, and sound more like Santa-we-know-and-love in the present day. Also, Tom Kenney was pretty good, if a little over the top, as the snivelling, scheming Dingus. His dialog was awful, but that's not his fault, and he did well with what he had to work with. Some of the elf voices seemed innappropriate (I swear one of them was Jewish) and Grizelda was plain annoying (I kept expecting to hear her say, "Oliveh, dahling").

On a side note, I'm not going to pan the songs too much. It's not so much that they were bad, they just weren't that good and not at all memorable, and I can't say I remember a single one. I wish these filmmakers today would get through their collective heads that songs aren't necessary for an animated kids' movie. Disney you are not, so stop going there.

Being based on an irreverent video game, I think the filmmakers envisioned an irreverent holiday film. Unfortunately, they failed. While I won't say there weren't some amusing bits, on the whole I didn't find it terribly funny. Someday these folks will realize a video game based on a movie works much better than a movie based on a video game. Still, my kids laughed throughout, but then, being kids, they laugh at plenty I don't find particularly amusing (like, say, fart jokes). Since we ordered this through our digital cable, I guess it was worth a couple bucks to make them happy, but it's definitely not worth the purchase of the DVD. Save it for the Christmas Story Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Rangle Model Air DVD with a compass in the stock and a thing which tells time.