Air Date: Tuesday, December 16, 2014, 8/7c on NBC
“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” – Buddy
Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas is an entertaining fish out of water story about Buddy (Jim Parsons), a human raised by elves at the North Pole. When Buddy learns about his real father, Walter Hobbs (Mark Hamill), he sets off to a magical place called New York City to find the father he never knew he had. Adding urgency to Buddy’s mission is the fact that Walter is on Santa’s naughty list.
I was leery when NBC first announced Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas. As a fan of the 2003 holiday film Elf, directed by Jon Favreau, my concern was instead of a sequel to the film, NBC’s musical would be a retelling of Buddy’s adventure, drawing inspiration from both the film and Broadway show Elf: The Musical. Some might even wonder whether a third version of the same story is necessary.
It might not be fair but it’s impossible to review Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas without comparing it to the film. In fact, most of my criticism stems from things in the film that are missing in the musical. Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas follows the movie’s plot for the most part, although the director cut a few memorable scenes to condense the story into the one-hour special. Other scenes have been changed slightly or moved to a different point in the story. One of the most notable changes comes in the musical’s ending as the Central Park Mounted Police Rangers are replaced as the villains for a new character. This may bother diehard fans of the film but I doubt most kids will care.
It would have been nice had NBC been able to bring back some of the original cast for this musical special. Instead, Ed Asner is the only actor from the film; he reprises his role as Santa. Although, Santa’s role is modified to absorb the Papa Elf role played by Bob Newhart in the movie.
Parsons holds his own and is quite entertaining as Buddy the Elf. Parson brings the high level of enthusiasm needed for the role and with his early years spent on Broadway, it’s no surprise he does such an admirable job considering what big shoes he had to fill. My only complaint is how the writers make Parsons’ Buddy come across as a more dimwitted character than Will Ferrell’s Buddy, who had a more childlike innocence to him.
Kate Micucci provides the voice of Jovie, who was originally spoken by Zooey Deschanel. I’ve been a fan of Micucci’s ever since she played a socially awkward girlfriend on The Big Bang Theory. There is something in her voice that makes her perfect for this animated role. Unfortunately, Jovie’s role is not only changed, it is greatly reduced from the film version, making it almost inconsequential to the story.
Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas features nine songs, including “Happy All the Time,” “A Christmas Song,” and “Nobody Cares About Santa Claus.” Notably missing is the Frank Loesser song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” which was beautifully sung by Deschanel with help from Ferrell in the film.
The need for a third interpretation of Buddy’s journey depends on whether you have kids. Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas is a visually entertaining tale that parents will enjoy watching with their family. There is a lot of physical humor that will keep the kids laughing. The stop motion animation is reminiscent of such classic holiday TV specials like Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. As someone who is not a fan of musicals, I found the songs to be tolerable and at times even enjoyable, although not very memorable soon after. Obviously, those who are fans of the genre may think otherwise.
As an adult, I found Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas entertaining enough to keep me watching. Yet, when put next to the film for comparison, it comes up severely lacking. Since everything is condensed to fit into the hour special, not to mention the nine musical numbers, there isn’t much time for character development.
Adults without kids might be better off watching the film because while entertaining, Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas is lacking the heart and innocence Ferrell and the rest of the cast brought to the film.
Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas is directed by Mark Caballero and Seamus Walsh. The voice cast also includes Fred Armisen as Chadwick, Jay Leno as Fake Santa #1, and Matt Lauer as Mr. Sea Serpent, all of whom do nice jobs.
Check out Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas Tuesday, December 16, 2014, 8/7c on NBC.
For more on the show, visit the official website at http://www.nbc.com/elf-buddys-musical-christmas
All photos © 2014 NBC Universal, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
© 2014, Greg Staffa. All rights reserved.
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