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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Happy Elf
The Happy Elf
Starz / Anchor Bay // Unrated // December 6, 2005
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted December 1, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

The holidays always bring the worst kids' programs out of the woodwork. What is it about Christmas that inspires people to put together cheesy, trite films loaded with sugary sentiment? Holiday films don't have to be that way (look at The Polar Express!), but sadly too many are like The Happy Elf.

Even the name has a cheap ring to it, somehow, as if someone spent a whole five minutes or so trying to come up with something to slap on the DVD cover. At least it's accurate: The Happy Elf is the story of Eubie, a very happy elf in Santa's workshop. But I guess he's not so happy at heart, for poor Eubie just wants to be loved and accepted... where have we heard that before? Oh yeah, in every other trite holiday why-can't-we-all-get-along family piece, except that I suppose all the standard "I'm different from the other little elves" differences were already used up, so we get to move on to personality defects instead of physical or ethnic differences. You see, Eubie is so optimistic and gosh-darn upbeat that he stands out from the other elves. (Yeah, I'd want to smack him, too. No, that doesn't happen. Alas.)

The Happy Elf only runs 45 minutes, but it's a very long 45 minutes, involving a cheesy frame story of a Harry Connick, Jr. stand-in telling the story to a couple of naughty kids, and the main story of Eubie and his pals bringing Christmas cheer to a sad little town called Bluesville. Yes, it's just as lame as it sounds. Parents: think twice about buying this DVD. If your kids hate it, you're out the money, and if they love it (kids do sometimes love strange and unpalatable things, like Twinkies) you really, really don't want to have to put up with seeing it more than once.

I doubt that any member of the audience would like The Happy Elf, though. Not only is it cheesy and lame, but it's just... bad. The animations are really hideous... not just ugly, but downright disturbing. There's something about the plastic-textured faces and exaggerated body motions that's quite creepy. I can imagine the younger set might have some bad dreams after seeing this film, with a maniacally grinning Eubie chasing them around and squealing with glee. Ugh. Now I might have nightmares, too.

The one selling point seems to be that the film features the voice acting and one of the songs of Harry Connick, Jr. If you are a die-hard fan, I suppose that it might be kind of cute to see his animated film, but you'd have to be pretty obsessive about the singer to want to add this piece of Christmas fluff to your collection.

The DVD

Video

The Happy Elf comes with two video options: the original widescreen transfer, and a pan-and-scanned version. I'm not thrilled that they even included the pan-and-scan version, but on the bright side the menu shows a shot from each version that clearly illustrates the chopped nature of the pan-and-scan transfer.

The widescreen transfer is anamorphically enhanced, and looks fine. It's clear and clean, with bright colors.

Audio

Two audio tracks are provided: a Dolby 5.1 and a Dolby 2.0. Both are fine, with the 5.1 sounding a little fuller. Dialogue is clean and crisp, and the music is balanced well with the rest of the track.

Extras

There's not much here of interest. A nine-minute "making of" interview with Harry Connick, Jr. is very lightweight. There's a "build an elf" activity (lame), and a gallery of characters from the film. For budding animators, there's also a storyboard option that plays the entire film with the regular soundtrack, but with the storyboards instead of the final animation. Lastly, there's a trailer for the film and a short promotional clip for the Harry for the Holidays program. Some additional games are included as DVD-ROM content.

Final Thoughts

Chalk this one up as another disposable Christmas animated feature, with no redeeming value whatsoever. The story is trite and dull, the music is nothing to get excited about, and the animations are downright creepy. Even if you find it in a bargain bin, best to just skip it.

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