Elves should be easy to cast. You just need short actors with rosy cheeks. Problems arise when casting directors overthink their jobs and making elves out of people who look incredibly out of place in the North Pole. Here are four of the worst offenders in holiday movie history.
Dudley Moore in Santa Claus: The Movie
Why it makes a little sense: At 5’3,” Dudley Moore was pretty short for a Hollywood actor and he had a youthful, puckish face, so it makes sense visually.
Why it’s strange: Moore’s no cuddly toy. He’s the guy from Arthur, a movie about a drunk millionaire and the Bo Derek sex comedy 10. Plus, he was 50 years old when he played an elf. Let a guy have some dignity.
David Krumholtz in The Santa Clause
Why it makes a little sense: The Santa Clause was built on a nightmare premise—a random suburban dad is compelled to be Santa because of fine print in a contract. So you need an elf with edge to enforce the rules. Also, the movie makes the very weird choice of casting children as Santa’s elves. Come on guys, it’s Santa’s workshop, not Santa’s sweatshop.
Why it’s strange: Krumholtz is a charming comedic character actor and a natural fit for Judd Apatow’s ensemble casts. Even though he’s young, Krumholtz looks a little stoned. But you’ve gotta hand it to him: his performance sent at least one YouTube video-maker on a slow jam erotic revelry.
Bob Newhart in Elf
Why it makes a little sense: Several actors in Elf are cast against type for comedic effect. Santa’s played by Ed Asner, who’s usually a gruff hard-ass. Six-foot-three Will Ferrell plays an elf. So having the most famously understated comic actor of the 20th century play a magical being fits.
Why it’s strange: It’s strange but it works. Newhart brings a deflated realness to the early magical fantasy scenes. Elves are immortal magical creatures but Newhart talks with the a button-down cadence that’s pure 20th century.
Ludacris in Fred Claus
Why it makes a little sense: Maybe an early draft of Fred Claus had an elf say “I got ho ho hos in different area codes” and, hey why not bring in Luda?
Why it’s strange: He isn’t merely an elf, he’s the DJ at Santa’s workshop and it seems like a joke on a ‘90s The Simpsons episode about an ugly effort by corporate entertainment to appeal to an youthful “urban” audience. At least he doesn’t skateboard.