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OutKast, Elves, and Chocolate factories

2003-12-03 - 10:55 a.m.

(TAKE THAT BALLOT AND) SHAKE IT LIKE A POLAROID PICK-CHAH!

Since my new favorite song is OutKast’s “Hey Ya,” and since I’m currently trying to decide which Democratic candidate to get behind, I feel torn about this whole Wes Clark-namedrops-OutKast thing: does it make him exceptionally cool, or does it make him an exceptionally big dork?

Unfortunately, I’m leaning toward the latter: it seems like a real sad attempt to try to be Bill Clinton. (And yet, it would be even dorkier if Lieberman were saying it, so in a backhanded way, it’s kinda cool.)

Every time I hear “Hey Ya” in my car, I crank it up and shake my head back and forth like Andre 3000 did on his “SNL” performance, and wonder what the other drivers must think of my silly white ass. That’s the best radio single I’ve heard in 10 years. I vote for Andre Two-thousand: two-thousand and four!

(See some funny proposed bumper stickers for the Bush/Cheney campaign here. My favorite: “Bush/Cheney ’04: This time, elect us!”)

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So have you heard all this stuff about fellow Midwesterner Asthon Kutcher getting booted from Cameron Crowe’s new movie because he sucks at acting? I say who cares; the real news is that Cameron Crowe has a new movie in the works! Yay!!

It’s called Elizabethtown, and apparently he’s calling this one a “love letter” to something, the same way he called “Almost Famous” his “love letter to rock and roll.” Here’s what I don’t get, though: a love letter to “the resilience of the life force.” Huh?

…and in other great-director news, apparently “Big Fish” isn’t the only thing Tim Burton has going on these days: according to this web site, Burton is going to direct a 2005-version of Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” (starring Johnny Depp) even though he doesn’t really like the book.

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MOVIE MINUTE

I saw “Elf” with my parents this weekend. When it was over, my dad insisted we drive around town and look at Christmas lights.

“That movie was just perfect,”, he kept saying. “It really got me into the Christmas spirit.”

I wish it would’ve made me feel that way. Instead of feeling joy when viewing the lights, I kept thinking, “Good Lord, people, digest your frickin’ turkey before you start going all Christmas-crazy, already.”

But. Having said that, “Elf” made me laugh, which in turn reassured me that I’m not completely cynical, even if I’m not really in the knock-people-down-at-Wal-mart (oops, I mean Christmas) spirit.

Five Reasons You Should See It/Skip It If You Haven’t Already, (or, Five Things You May Agree or Disagree With If You’ve Already Seen It:)

1. Will Ferrell is a gifted comedian, one of the best cast members “SNL” has seen in the past decade, and this film, by its very nature— a family Christmas movie, truly suitable and intended for kids—isn’t a perfect showcase for his comedic talent and range.

Ferrell plays Buddy the Elf, who comes to New York after having been raised as one of Santa’s elves in the North Pole, and tries to work his way in to the heart of his biological father, a bah-humbug-ish publishing executive played by James Caan. Buddy is a childlike, innocent goofball who, of course, knows very little about how we non-Pole-ar people live, and who loves to smother his spaghetti in maple syrup—it’s laughable, but not nearly as funny as Ferrell has been in his “SNL” skit roles.

2. But it isfunny. Ferrell does get to exhibit his talent for physical comedy (trying to jump to the top of the Christmas tree but landing in the middle and knocking it over) and for uncanny deadpan: in one scene, the unknowing elf meets an egomaniacal children’s book author—who happens to be a midget—and says things like “Wow! Did you get here on Santa’s sleigh??”

3. Ferrell’s energy level keeps the movie upbeat and fast-paced, and despite the film’s inherent cheesiness—Santa’s Sleigh runs on a Christmas-spirit-meter, and only people’s warm hearts can get it running!—it never hits a false, sappy, or wallet-diving note (by which I mean, “more concerned with getting you to McDonald’s to buy an “Elf”-themed keepsake Supersized softdrink cup than with making a quality film.”)

4. The cast is great: Mary Steenburgen, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel; with Andy Richter, Ed Asner Bob Newhart, and Amy Sedaris in cameo-esque roles. (Sedaris’ role is really disappointing if you’re a fan of hers, like seeing Parker Posey play that Sidney Straight-o role in “You’ve Got Mail.”) The aesthetic look and feel are perfect, like a glossy children’s Christmas book.

5. Most importantly, “Elf,” directed by “Swingers” writer John Favreau, may be a feel-good formula movie that will rake in the dough, but it’s made by a director whose name you wouldn’t normally attach to this kind of film—and it shows. As with this fall’s “School of Rock,” (directed by “Dazed and Confused” director Richard Linklater,) there may be no innovative or artistic steps taken in the film, but the filmmaker’s artistic integrity shows through.

The movie doesn’t pander to kids or make sex-themed jokes aimed for parents. It doesn’t go for overwrought, Cinderella-y love stories—Buddy finds romance with a blonde department store clerk, (Deschanel) but it’s exhibited in nothing more than an innocent peck on the cheek (which goes down so nicely without a Celine Dion song in the background.) And most of all, there’s no heavy all-or-nothing feeling at the end: Buddy isn’t torn between two worlds, because he gets to stay connected to both the North Pole and New York. It’s an upbeat, funny family movie about Christmas—one that will likely become a classic.

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