Review: ELF IN CONCERT, Royal Albert Hall

Buddy the Elf comes to the Hall to celebrate Christmas (and the film's 20th anniversary).

By: Dec. 10, 2023
Review: ELF IN CONCERT, Royal Albert Hall

Review: ELF IN CONCERT, Royal Albert Hall The story of Buddy the Elf has entertained crowds for two entire decades. Will Ferrel’s green get-up has been turned into Christmas garments and ornaments and, as internet culture developed, it swiftly became the star of memes and GIFs, cementing the film’s impact on society. While Elf isn’t perhaps the first motion picture that springs to mind when we think of the paragon of a celebrated score, it’s undeniable that it belongs among the élite of Christmas movies. Yes, it’s a good-natured comedy featuring a feast of recurring gags, but it also celebrates that kind of sheer unadulterated childlike joy that we don’t feel any longer as adults. Is the reason we love Buddy so much that we envy him for his pure approach to life?

In any case, the Hall knew what they were doing when they chose their festive programming. All decked out with shiny trees and classy wreaths, the venue welcomed young and old in their most cheery gear. The sparkliest, reddest crowd with the most interesting and creative jumpers were eager to watch their favourite elf. Did they care that Benjamin Pope was directing the Philharmonia Orchestra, ready to dazzle them with John Debney’s beautiful orchestrations? Probably not. They wanted a lovely family outing with a fancy backdrop and that’s exactly what they got. It was wonderful.

While the music of Elf hasn’t specifically been the talk of the town since its release, the circumstances made us realise that Debney’s compositions are actually quite something. It’s a melodic score, with plenty of traditional influences and a number of swooping flourishes that scream Christmas. The soundscape creeps up in most scenes, accompanying Ferrel’s methodical humour and puctuating his character’s hijinks. The cultural clash between humans and their elf-raised counterpart is populated by beloved tunes from “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” to Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker Suite”, but Debney comes in strong to set the tone of Buddy’s genuine antics with a confident string section.

This is what the Films in Concert series does best; it gently guides the audience to focus on the acoustic parts of a movie with stern elegance. Picking a tale of identity and acceptance that just so happened to turn 20 this year was a brilliant choice. It’s funny, thoughtful, and heartwarming. A real modern classic. “Oh, by the way, don’t eat the yellow snow.”

Next up in the Royal Albert Hall's Films in Concert series is La La Land on 27 December.