December 24, 2006


-INTERVIEW: Todd Komarnicki: Producer, Director, Writer�and Believer: The producer of Elf explains how his Christian faith affects his career as a Hollywood producer, director, and writer. (Jeffrey Overstreet, 11/13/2003, Christianity Today)

There is an interesting issue dividing Christian film critics' reviews over the new holiday comedy Elf. Some go so far as to call it a "perfect holiday movie" that "promot[es] biblical concepts." Others are frustrated that "spirituality is notably absent." It all comes down to whether or not the critic thinks Santa Claus is a meaningful metaphor, or if Jolly Old Saint Nick needs to surrender his throne and change his theme song to "Baby Jesus is Coming to Town." (See Film Forum's review roundups from this week and last week.)

But Elf's producer argues that the gospel message is reflected in this whimsical world of make-believe. [...]

For a lot of moviegoers�Christians included�Christmas fairy tales are a meaningful and enjoyable part of the holiday tradition. But there are those who think fairy tales cheapen Christmas. The snowmen, the reindeer, Santa. Elf does not make direct references to the real story of Christmas, and some Christian film critics have a problem with that. Do you think Elf and other such Christmas fairy tales are damaging?

Not if they tell the truth! One of the things that is beautiful about a good fairy tale is that it reflects the truth. The truth that Elf reflects is about giving and innocence and learning to live sacrificially�to put others first. That's the story of Christmas. It reflects the truth of Christmas.

We have a savior who was a storyteller, [so] I think there is great value in story. Jesus almost never said exactly what his thought was straight out. He was always couching it in metaphor and simile, so that people would think�to engage them and to engage their imagination, to see the context in which they were living. Story does that. I think it's a very powerful tool. Certainly, like any tool, it can be misused, but I think Elf is a really strong example of a beautiful fairy tale that by its nature ends up reflecting the truth. The writer didn't set out to reflect the gospel. But, in telling a beautiful fairy tale from his own heart and in reflecting a lot of Christmas movies that he had loved, he wound up reflecting the gospel.

Got an e-mail this week informing us that One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest couldn't be a Christian allegory because Ken Kesey wasn't a Christian. Folks have also complained that Cool Hand Luke is just a prison story. Just goes to show how right Albert Jay Nock was:
[V]ery few literate persons are able to read, very few indeed. This can be proven by observation and experiment of the simplest kind. I do not mean that the great majority are unable to read intelligently; I mean that they are unable to read at all--unable, that is, to carry away from a piece of printed matter anything like a correct idea of its content. They are more or less adept at passing printed matter through their minds, after a fashion, especially such matter as is addressed to mere sensation, (and knowledge of this fact is nine-tenths of a propagandist's equipment), but this is not reading. Reading implies a use of the reflective faculty, and very few have that faculty developed much beyond the anthropoid stage, let alone possessing it at a stage of development which makes reading practicable.

-INTERVIEW: Big Screen Vision: The producer of Elf shares the Christian hope that drives his filmmaking. (Christian Reader, November/December 2003)
-REVIEW: of Elf (Jeffery Overstreet, Looking Closer)

[originally posted: 2003-11-14]

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 24, 2006 12:02 AM

I'm a slow reader because I reread those passages I enjoy and those that are or seem complex. Perhaps suprisingly I also can speed read which I have used in business extensively. I applaud anyone who reads and find Nock's statement beyond elitist.

As careful a reader as I try to be I find I've often misinterpretated the author's message, reflecting my own biases in the actual words of the author.

We humans sometimes seem to be ... well just human. Isn't the burden of communication equally on the Author?

Posted by: genecis at November 14, 2003 5:45 PM


That's actually one of the delicious ironies--Graham Greene could never understand why the reading public understood The Heart of the Matter so much differently than he meant it. Or read Orwell and see how unintentionally conservative he is.

Posted by: oj at November 14, 2003 6:06 PM

In this context, you might be interested in this site:

This is a Christian movie-review site, run by an evangelical pastor out in California, which has found Christian allegories in seemingly the most surprising places in past and current movies.

Posted by: Joe at November 14, 2003 8:40 PM

In their insulting of most people's intellectual capacities, there seems little to tell between the left and Nock.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 15, 2003 7:19 AM


"most people's intellectual capabilities?" You're kidding , right?

Posted by: oj at November 15, 2003 8:27 AM


Well, no. Not exactly.

I think it was here last week (although it could have been Taranto) where you (or he) noted the Left's reasoning about why they lose electorally: the masses are too stupid to vote in their own best interest.

That sort of thing isn't becoming when the Left says it; it is no more so coming from Nock's pen.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 15, 2003 4:22 PM


They're right though--most folk would be better off just voting wealth to themselves. Luckily, we've sold them the idea of freedom though.

Posted by: oj at November 15, 2003 4:26 PM


The fact that you are insulted speaks volumnes about our debates on other issues. Everybody here is for freedom and maximising individual choice. However, there is a world of difference between saying, on the one hand, that freedom and democracy are good because they prevents oppression, whether from the state, church, union, corporations or the local planning board, and, on the other, because each of us is essentially wise and noble, knows best what is good for us and is the ultimate arbiter of taste, truth and morality. The first strikes me as the lesson of the American Revolution (and to some degree the British Civil War) and the second, the French.

What is offensive about saying most people are stupid, philistine and selfish? Or that few know how to read profoundly? The religionists who are taught to love their brothers aren't under the illusion they are supposed to do so because they are particularly lovable.

Posted by: Peter B at November 16, 2003 8:47 AM

The reason we have 9 justices on the Supreme Court and not just 1 is that people read the same thing different ways.

I have not read Nock, but I'd bet a week's pay that he was incapable of reading the Bible for what it actually says as opposed to what he was committed to believing it meant. I've never met a Christian who had read the Bible in Nock's sense, as the discussion about Abraham and Isaac here exposed so amusingly.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at November 16, 2003 4:32 PM