We’ve gotten a bumper crop of beautifully designed, costumed and decorated collection of Christmas tales set in Santa’s world and Santa’s workshop this year. “David and the Elves” is the latest lush entry in this holiday genre, a fantasy about a little Polish boy who really believes, and the vain, showboat elf who comes to visit.
It begins with promise and end with an attempted tugging of the heartstrings. But there are few laughs in between as this one develops a serious case of the “drags” — in Polish, or dubbed into English.
Albert (Jakub Zajac, one of the stars of Poland’s version of “The Office”) is the cocky “five-time elf of the year” in Santaland, always getting profiled by Elf TV, a bit too full of himself thanks to the fact that he’s the guy Santa (Cezary Żak) trusts to drive the sleigh. He even has his own line of figurines, which he can leave under this or that tree for “my fans.”
David (Cyprian Grabowski) is a ten year-old who has to move from the snowy, mountain forest wonderland his family has lived in to the impersonal big city of Warsaw. David’s over-enthusiastic father Patrick (Michael Czernecki) has long filled his head with tales of Santa and his elves. David’s mother (Anna Smolowik) hopes this move is what makes “him finally grow up.”
David? He’s just 10.
“I mean PATRICK.”
Dad’s imagination has him point to Santa’s invisible sleigh in the night sky, “with Albert at the reins,” out to David is why Albert picks David’s life to drop in on when he has an existential crisis amidst the year-round toy work and toy delivery operations with Santa.
“What’s all this for?”
Thus we have the Polish version of “Elf,” with an actual magic-wielding pixie mixed up among the humans, and not Will Ferrell.
The bulk of the movie is a wan version of the culture clash that a real live elf has when interacting with people who tell him their fondest Christmas wish, only to have him grant it, with unforeseen problems when those wishes come true.
Turning a Christmas tree into Dad’s wished-for drum kit is no big deal. Sending a stranger who longs be in quiet solitude on a remote lake — without giving the guy winter clothes or taking into account he might have preferred a more tropical climate — is a bother.
David struggles to explain away Albert’s actions to his parents, who somehow always miss seeing the guy in the green suit and red-striped hosiery.
The picture drifts into the happy but sometimes touchy marriage of Santa to his “private dancer” Mrs. Claus (Monika Krzywkowska) and the odd reindeer “smell” joke amid the elaborately conceived workshop complex, which has elves of all sizes and races, from all over the world.
Yes, even Poland’s figured out “inclusion.”
There are a couple of grown-up giggles in this, maybe a few more moments that kids will find funny.
It’s no edgier than Mrs. Claus’s semi-sultry shimmy to “Beyond the Sea,” and the rare piece of North Pole profanity.
“Don’t say ‘damn!’ You’re Santa’s WIFE!”
About the best you can say for this one is that’s it’s inoffensive, bland holiday filler, something to leave on in the next room to keep the tykes tied up while you finish your holiday wrapping, cooking and such.
Cast: Jakub Zajac, Cyprian Grabowski, Cezary Zak, Monika Krzywkowska, Anna Smolowik and Michael Czernecki
Credits: Directed by Michal Rogalski, scripted by Marcin Baczynski and Mariusz Kuczewski. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:46