Anchor Bay // 2012 // 87 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // November 18th, 2012
Christmas has a new hero!
The Harpers are facing a tough Christmas, as they prepare for the holidays without the mother of the family who has recently passed away. Things only get worse when the father of the family, Eric Harper (Mackenzie Astin), is kidnapped by a gang of thugs (led by Jeffrey Combs) who are out to steal his latest invention. A heartfelt wish made on Christmas Eve by little Kasey Harper (Carly Robell) is heard by Santa, who sends one of his elves (Jason Acuna) to help the family. Initially unsure he has anything to offer, the elf is convinced by the children that he has the power within him, and they set about transforming him into the first elf superhero, Elf-Man.
Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator) and Jason Acuna, a.k.a. "Wee Man" (Jackass), are probably the last two names you'd expect to see headlining a family friendly Christmas movie, yet here they both are, starring in Elf-Man. Barring a brief, but utterly bizarre fantasy sequence in which a fruit cake inexplicably comes to life to give the Harper kids a fright, Elf-Man is perfectly harmless and suitable for all ages. Unfortunately, though very young children will find just enough to keep them entertained for the film's 87-minute duration, there's nothing that will have them clamoring for repeat viewings; adults, on the other hand, will be struggling to stay awake. That's right: Elf-Man is another cheap, pointless Christmas release, ready to take the hard-earned cash of parents hoping to placate children anxiously awaiting Santa's arrival.
How bad is Elf-Man, you ask? Well, as much as I love Christmas, this stinker almost had me wishing it was January.
Everything is done with the best intentions, but we all know what the road to Hell is paved with. It's all very well having your film speak about the importance of being with our loved ones at Christmas, but if it's lacking imagination and heart -- as is most definitely the case here -- all the niceties are for naught. Elf-Man is one of those films that (wrongly) assumes that because its target audience is the under-tens, things like logic are unnecessary. A pivotal scene sees the Harper kids attempting to convince Acuna's elf to help them rescue their dad by making him a superhero costume, their reasoning being that dressing him up as a superhero will make him see the potential he possesses. Here's the thing, though: up until that point, the elf has been nothing but a selfish, curmudgeonly, rude oaf who has shown absolutely no redeemable features. Why the kids would pin their hopes on him is a mystery.
The film's lack of quality extends to its cast who, bar one exception, don't appear to be trying. Acuna clearly struggles, with his delivery being particularly flat. The one exception to this dearth of talent is Jeffrey Combs. I should confess now that thanks to his work in the likes of Re-Animator and The Frighteners, I am a fan of Combs, but regardless of this, it's clear for anyone to see that he is the sole member of the cast with any real acting chops. Sure, he's reduced to crumby dialogue and pratfalls for the most part, but his energetic performance is the sole highlight of this tawdry production.
Anchor Bay's DVD sports a clean 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer that also boasts bright colors. The image is sharp throughout, and possesses good black levels. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack delivers clear dialogue, though the mix is a little flat. No extras are included on this release.
When it comes to delivering festive entertainment, Elf-Man comes up desperately short (if you'll pardon the pun). Lacking the sparkle and sense of wonder that defines the best Christmas movies, Elf-Man is a real holiday dud that only the naughtiest children should be given as a present this year.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated