The Student News Site of Conestoga High School



Day 3: Holiday movie reviews


By Devon Rocke, Aishi Debroy, Mindy Wang, Juliana Yao and Melissa Fan, Co-Managing Editor, Opinion Editor, and Staff Reporters

“Elf”: An unexpected Christmas masterpiece

I never thought I’d say this: I found myself relating to an overly optimistic human raised by elves – the fictional character Buddy – who embarks on a journey to connect with his biological father named Walter Hobbs.

In the film “Elf,”  Buddy, played by the renowned actor Will Ferell, is adopted by one of Santa’s elves after being accidentally carried from an orphanage to the North Pole. Upon discovering that he isn’t an elf himself, Buddy travels to New York in the hopes of meeting Hobbs only to find someone whose disposition is the complete opposite of his own: a selfish, cynical and greedy businessman. 

Despite using a predictable plot and themes, “Elf” has been referred to by critics as a “holiday staple” and even a “timeless classic.” So, what makes the film stand out among the dozens of Christmas-related films released during the holiday season? Why do people, regardless of age or demographic, annually rewatch the film come the holiday season?

The answer lies in its reliability. At the end of the day, the viewer is watching a coming-of-age story. Sure, Buddy is a towering human in elf attire, but his eccentric character and clothes don’t take away from the warmth and humanity in his personality. 

The search for Hobbs eventually becomes a journey to discover his own identity. From being a generally incompetent elf to a naive, childlike human navigating New York, Buddy has always been an outcast. His journey truly begins when he realizes that he doesn’t fit it in anywhere: a feeling many of us understand. 

Despite the outlandish situations Buddy gets into, you can’t help but laugh and smile with his lovable, humorous character. His selfless, kind nature serves as a source of inspiration to those around him – his pessimistic father, lonely brother, or his dispirited love interest.  As Buddy incites feelings of “Christmas spirit” in the other characters, you can’t help but feel the “fuzzy” and “warm” feelings that makes this movie so special. 

If you want to watch in-depth analyses on the themes of corruption or family or expect well-developed storylines of all characters (especially the storylines that include Buddy’s love interest or his father’s work dynamics), you won’t find it in “Elf.” Instead, you’ll leave the movie with a newfound appreciation for “Christmas spirit” and understanding of the importance of family during the holiday season. 

 As the holiday season approaches, I will most definitely watch “Elf” with my family and friends. Other Christmas movies don’t come close to kindling the “Christmas spirit” that “Elf” manages to bring out in its viewers. I hope that many of you guys will join me in watching Buddy’s comedic and heartfelt journey!

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“The Polar Express”

A Christmas classic, “The Polar Express,” starts off with the main character looking for Santa on Christmas Eve like all other children. The only difference, however, is that he is looking to prove his theory that Santa doesn’t exist at all.

That night a train, the Polar Express, arrives, stopping in all its glory outside of the main character’s house, and he jumps on just as the train pulls away. As he boards the train, he meets a dozen children and talks to a girl, Hero Girl, who sits next to him. 

The main character loses hero girl’s train ticket in the wind of the train window. Hero girl, upon discovering her ticket is gone, is taken away by the ticket master. But, the ticket returns to the cabin just as she’s taken away to an unknown location. The main character tries to return the ticket but ends up standing on the roof of the train as it takes a 90 degree downhill turn. The train then slides across a frozen lake, while the cracks in the ice threaten to sink it altogether. But since children don’t want to see the entire cast of the movie drown in a lake, they conveniently make it safely to the North Pole. 

Ultimately, “The Polar Express” is a generic family Christmas movie. Christmas songs are played in the background and the themes of the movie are used to teach children values that can be applied all through life. And, the most redeeming quality of the movie is that Santa makes an appearance!

As a 2004 film, “The Polar Express’s” graphics are far from the amazing 3D graphics used in movies today. The animation makes all the characters look real yet so disturbingly fake. 

The nostalgia that stems from watching this movie as a 2000s kid is the only thing that makes the movie enjoyable. I am able to relive the emotions and memories I had as a kid when I first watched the scenes in the movie. But I understand that the old graphics and themes in “The Polar Express” can be something that deters people of younger generations from watching. 

The Polar Express is not something I would have watched on my own accord, because of the bland plot of the story, but I found that I did enjoy rewatching a classic from my childhood. Although there may not be anything special about the plot or characters for younger generations, watch the movie. It’s a nice movie and has a traditional Christmas feel and you won’t regret spending your time watching it.  

Love Hard

“Love Hard”

If you want a movie with an ending you can predict from just the trailer, “Love Hard,” the newest Netflix Christmas movie, is for you!

 The film follows Natalie Bauer,  a blogger whose career relies on her documentation of the horrendous love life she’s experienced through online dating apps as a hopeless romantic. One day, however, Natalie’s luck changes when she matches with Josh, an emotionally available man with a handsome profile picture, and sparks fly. 

The two form an immediate connection, and when he invites her to visit for Christmas, Natalie jumps at the opportunity, flying from Los Angeles, CA to Lake Placid, NY to finally see her dreamy, perfect, loving….. catfish. 

Josh had duped Natalie from the get-go, using a picture of his friend, Tag, for his dating profile as he never expected his relationship with Natalie to come so far. So, they struck a deal: if Josh set Natalie up with Tag, she would play along and pretend to be his girlfriend in front of his family until her flight back to L.A.

 I started Love Hard with skepticism, thinking it was just another Netflix flop for mindless watching. Unfortunately, I was correct. The movie lacks originality and is more akin to a PG-13 Hallmark movie than a sweet love story. Despite its disappointing plotline, “Love Hard”’s characters are fairly dynamic though not very likable. Down to its core, “Love Hard” is based on the superficial tendencies associated with dating apps. 

Though Natalie formed such a strong emotional bond with Josh while thinking he was her knight in shining armor, she immediately rejected him when she saw what he really looked like. While Josh tried arguing that he was the same person she had formed a connection with over the phone, Natalie refused to listen, instead shooting for Tag, a man she knew nothing about. 

All everyone cared about in “Love Hard” was appearances, whether that image is a picture perfect relationship, flawless physical characteristics, or appearing to be the most successful. Almost every character was shallow, superficial and self-centered, leaving the watcher frustrated after every selfish scene.

Although Netflix failed to get their message across to their viewers, I can see what the movie was reaching for: a Christmas story that shows that it’s the inside that counts. To put it simply, however, “ Love Hard” isn’t “so bad that it’s good,” it’s just bad through and through. 

“Home Alone”

When the holidays roll around, we often find ourselves looking back to the past for a sense of nostalgia. Old family traditions roll out, and it can’t be just a simple coincidence that the same Christmas songs play on the radio each year. The same can be said with films. There’s a reason why the holiday classics are often rewatched during the merry season: for the nostalgic emotions that the movies encapsulate. 

Not many movies can get as close to being a holiday classic as “Home Alone” does. Released in 1990, television channels still continue to play the movie to this day, more than 30 years later. 

The film tells the story of 8-year-old Kevin McCallister when his family accidentally leaves him behind during their winter holiday vacation. Stuck “home alone” for the time being, it seems at first to the young boy that it was a dream come true. With numerous other children in the household, Kevin had always wished for his family to disappear, and sees this situation as a Christmas miracle. 

His initial excitement begins to dull, however, when two local con men, Harry and Marv, plan to rob the McCallisters while they believe the family is out on vacation. The two are no less daunted when they realize a little boy is alone in the house but underestimate Kevin’s intelligence and creativity. The movie goes on to show Kevin’s numerous traps made to thwart the robbery plans, as heads are set on fire and Christmas ornaments are stepped on. Barefoot – ouch. 

Although initially portrayed to be a bratty child with an ungrateful attitude, you find yourself rooting for Kevin as he takes down the “bad guys” in the film. 

Without a complex plot, not much brain power is required to enjoy the movie. Winter break is a chance to relax, and should be used to take a pause from the hectic student lifestyle, from conjugating verbs in language classes to trying to find the derivative in math. 

This film is perfect for those who want a quick laugh that fills the audience with the Christmas spirit and a sense of nostalgia – not one that leaves you contemplating the meaning of life. “Home Alone” is nowhere near being the best movie of all time, but is perfect to set the mood for some quality family time over the holidays.

“The Princess Switch”

The Christmas season is a valuable time to spend with friends and family and none of it should be wasted on watching The Princess Switch – Netflix’s concoction of Parent Trap and every terrible Hallmark Christmas movie combined.

The movie kicks off with your normal city girl, Stacy DeNovo (played by Vanessa Hudgens), who has a passion for baking. She and her friend, Kevin, are accepted into a baking competition in Belgravia, a fictional country in Europe, hosted by its prince. Though Stacy is hesitant to attend the competition, Kevin encourages her to be more spontaneous.

Stacy encounters a mysterious old man who reiterates what Kevin tells her, advising her to be more impulsive. When she expresses her desire to spend Christmas with a special someone, he sends her off with an ominous quote. 

“Christmas wishes are known to come true.”

 After Stacy agrees to participate in the contest and arrives in Belgravia with Kevin, the old man appears once again, insisting he does not know her.

While on set for the baking contest, Stacy bumps into the Duchess of Montenaro, the fiancé of the prince, and the two realize they look identical to each other. The duchess, or Lady Delacourt, proposes that they switch for two days in an effort for Delacourt to learn to become more “normal”. Stacy agrees and they go through with their plan.

The basis for most of the movie’s plot and part of its title, “The Switch”, is never properly justified. Not only are Lady Delacourt and Stacy absolute strangers who agree to take on each other’s identity, the explanation for their exact likeness is confusing. Lady Delacourt’s reasoning for the scheme is brushed over and not properly developed. Similarly, the characters in this movie lack depth and are defined by simple traits. 

This movie’s attempts at humor are equally as horrendous, to say the least. Lines that were supposed to be jokes were far from having any semblance of comedy, usually passing over my head.

Additionally, the trope of an older, wiser and often magical being who acts as a cupid is painfully overused in Christmas movies. These characters are pointless because their purpose in the plot is never clearly defined, the old man in The Princess Switch being none the exception. 

At the very least, “The Princess Switch” has a coherent plotline. But this is not a movie to spend an hour and forty-two minutes on. It was difficult to focus on the movie while watching it, as I was thinking about the precious time I was wasting. “The Princess Switch” brings nothing new to the table as it is boring and redundant. 

Spend your holiday time elsewhere.

Devon Rocke can be reached at [email protected].

Aishi Debroy can be reached at [email protected].

Mindy Wang can be reached at [email protected].

Juliana Yao can be reached at [email protected].

Melissa Fan can be reached at [email protected].

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