Christmas Movie Smackdown: ‘Elf’ vs. ‘Scrooged’

To read more of Sharp’s Christmas Movie Smackdown, click here.

I’m going to put something out there. If you like it, you can take it. If you don’t, send it right back. Will Ferrell embodies the Christmas Spirit more than just about anyone right now. More than Bill Murray. Maybe even more than Santa. Hell, before we even got the chance to pose this article’s chief query — “Which is a better Christmas movie: Elf or Scrooged?” — he was already screaming it at New York pedestrians while donning holiday-themed pajamas. Of course he was. He’s Buddy the freakin’ Elf. Favourite Christmas song? ALL OF THEM.

Look: we know what Bill Murray means to the holidays. Dude’s a secular saint, after all. He warmed the cockles of our hearts nearly three decades ago as Scrooged’s Frank Cross, a narcissistic TV exec who hated everybody, but like old Ebenezer himself, learned how to love again by way of a literal kick to the balls from the Ghost of Christmas Present. He gave a very touching (and very ’80s) two-minute monologue, we bawled our eyes out, and we’ve been heralding Murray as this mythical, magical being ever since. Now there’s a whole damn Netflix Christmas special centered on the guy.

But throughout his pop cultural canonization, Murray’s retained a certain air of cynicism about him. Sure, he revealed his gooey centre in Scrooged, but he managed to do it while hanging onto his sardonic streak — notice how he taunts us for our singing abilities during the closing credits (“How about just the men? Alright, the real men!”). Similarly, A Very Murray Christmas revolves around Murray’s curmudgeonly charisma; he aimlessly hangdogs his way through most of the special, and though he eventually gets swept up in the holiday spirit singing alongside Miley Cyrus, it’s in a half-ironic, half-sincere, mostly confusing kind of way. He ends on a merry-sad note. Whenever Murray’s characters soften, they do so with a tinge of melancholy — it’s the type of broken-down grace that’s made him a model for ennui-ridden young men everywhere. But that’s not the kind of Christmas hero we need today.

What we need in 2015 — amid increased terrorist threats, rampant gun violence, and bacon-related death — is some uplifting, honest-to-goodness positivity. What we need is Will Ferrell, master of man-children, running around in a dumb elf costume, spinning himself sick in a revolving door, cramming 13 cookies into a VCR, and spreading Christmas cheer by singing loud for all to hear. (But we’ll also take him dressed up as George W. Bush, roasting the current crop of Republican presidential candidates.) We need some big, Ferrell-certified LOLs. Remember, it was only he who could create a character in the post-9/11 world with the earnestness to carry a Christmas movie (“There was a tremendous amount of paranoia at that time in the city,” director Jon Favreau told Rolling Stone about filming in Manhattan circa 2002).

And not just any Christmas movie, mind you, but one that’s held up as a classic, up there with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Elf is no Scrooged — it’s no retelling of a decades-old tale that we’ve recycled the Dickens out of. Buddy the Elf is an original character who captures our ADD-stricken zeitgeist; he’s the 2000s’ contribution to Yuletide folklore, one that’s already being passed down through frequent cable rotation and Broadway musicals. That’s a good thing, because we could use the Ferrell Experience — that rowdy, absurdist, unadulterated exuberance — today just as much as we could back in 2003. How do you fight the beef-and-cheese smelling bad guys of the world? By smiling big and wide, because smiling’s our favourite.


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