The Daily Stream: Elf Teaches Valuable Lessons Like Gum On The Street Isn't Free Candy

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: "Elf"

Where You Can Stream It: HBO Max

The Pitch: Listen up, you cotton-headed ninny muggins! It's that time of year again — the annual watching of "Elf." Will Ferrell is doing a new Christmas film called "Spirited" with Ryan Reynolds, and they put out a post on Instagram explaining that this was not "Elf," which tells you how beloved this ridiculous film is. I use that word with the biggest smile behind it because, though it is, in fact, ridiculous, it's one of the sweetest holiday films out there. 

One Christmas Eve, a baby at an orphanage crawls into Santa's (Ed Asner) bag and ends up at the North Pole. The elves name him Buddy and he's adopted by Papa Elf (Bob Newhart). He grows up with a candy cane forest, Santa's workshop, friendly-speaking narwhals, and the magic of Christmas all around him. 

One day Papa Elf finds out who his real parents are, and a grown-up (and very tall compared to the other elves) Buddy (Will Ferrell) sets off to New York City to meet his real parents. He finds his dad in the very grumpy children's book publisher Walter Hobbs (James Caan), who has a new wife, played by Mary Steenburgen (Buddy's mom passed away long ago), and a half-brother in Michael (Daniel Tay). 

Buddy has never seen the world outside of the workshop at the North Pole, though, dresses like a giant elf and eats things that I'd prefer not to think about for too long. 

Why it's essential viewing

This could not be more of a fish-out-of-water story unless Buddy was an actual fish. It would be hard to imagine anyone other than Will Ferrell who could pull this off. It's just the silliest. The things we learn about the North Pole are delightful, like the fact that there are drunk gnomes or that the North Pole has the seven levels of the candy cane forest and a sea of swirly and twirly gumdrops.

"Elf" should be stupid. Honestly, the premise is stupid. It's just that Ferrell is so delightful that it makes complete sense when a grumpy woman named Jovie (Zooey Deschanel) falls in love with him and his pure, innocent joy, despite herself. I buy that he can make everyone love him. Even when he says things like, "So Dad, I planned our whole day. First, we'll make snow angels for two hours. And then we'll go ice skating. And then we'll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse Cookie Dough as fast as we can. And then, to finish, we'll snuggle." 

I realize that I don't really have to sell a famous Christmas movie to most of you, but last year I learned that my fiance had somehow never seen "Elf." He was not abducted by aliens, and he isn't the Grinch, so I'm not sure how it happened. That's why I picked this film for you. It's possible that you, too, are one of the people who don't understand when someone says, "You sit on a throne of lies," and why that's funny, or giggle when Santa Claus is mentioned, and someone yells, "I know him!" Honestly, this is one of the most quotable movies I've ever seen, and I use these lines all the time. (No, I am not a Christmas elf, though it's a common mistake.)

'We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup'

There are good life lessons here, despite the wackiness of the film. Telling people you love them is important. You can find joy in silly things like a giant burp after slugging a soda. You can cheer people up by singing. Smiling is wonderful. You shouldn't cram 11 cookies into the VCR. Don't spray fruit-scented things into your mouth.

I mean, there are other lessons, like the fact that Santa Claus does not smell like beef and cheese or that finding gum on the street does not mean it's free candy, and those are important to know as well.

I think the most impactful lesson from "Elf" is that it's okay to be enthusiastic about the things that you love, whether they're presents or people or singing in the shower. Go watch this movie, or watch it again if it's a perennial favorite. It's been a hard year. Heck, we've had several of them. Put on your elf hat, ring some jingle bells, and grab yourself a giant mug of eggnog. 

Okay, fine. Go eat turkey first.