Many have complained over the years about movies being adapted from video games. While some have been relatively good, others have been disasters. However, what all of these movies shared was that the video games they were based on often (with a few exceptions) had stories. "Elf Bowling", on the other hand, is based upon a simple video game that offers the player the chance to play Santa and bowl down elfs (sorry, elves) standing in for the pins.
So, as you can see, not exactly a whole lot to work with. However, that hasn't stopped Dave Kim (production coordinator on "The Simpsons Movie" and digital effects artist on..."Wild Things 2"), co-director Rex Piano (former director of...um, "Silk Stalkings") and writer Martin Olson (the 2nd, 3rd and 4th "Screen Actors Guild Awards" writer) from trying. The movie starts with Santa (Joe Alaskey providing the voice) and his brother Dingle (Tom Kenny, voice of Spongebob) as pirates.
The two find themselves frozen in ice, eventually thawed out by a group of kindly elves. The elves believe that Santa is their new leader, and he agrees, especially after they offer him free cable (I mean, have you seen how much cable is lately? I'd take the deal, too.) While Santa turns good under the deal with the elves, Dingle still has thoughts of pirating. Determined to show up his brother, Dingle challenges Santa to an elf bowl-off, where Santa wins due to Dingle's cheating. While you'd think that would be the end of the movie, you're sadly mistaken: Dingle tricks Santa and sends him out into the icy waters, taking over Santa's whole operation (he tricks the elves into thinking that Santa doesn't like them anymore by posting a letter from Santa saying that "Elves stink", which the elves believe, apparently because they are morons) and moving it to Fiji. Will Santa return to save the day? Will the elves offer him a basic cable package or the premier program with TIVO?
Given the thin story, "Elf Bowling" would likely be one of those direct-to-video titles one would think would run about 45 minutes, maybe 60 at most (and even then, it would be pretty darn thin.) Unfortunately for me, the picture runs 82 minutes and, quite honestly, the picture's corny jokes, awful filler song sequences and poop jokes (Santa responds with, "Fire on the poopdeck!" when the elves accidentally light his rear on fire; elves constantly let loose a series of underarm farts), "Elf Bowling" turned into a painfully long sit. The film was reportedly retooled recently, and if that's true, it doesn't seem to have made much difference.
With a thin plot, primitive animation and some of the most cringe-worthy jokes I've heard in a while, "Elf Bowling" ranks as one of the worst (and certainly the most unnecessary) movies from video games ever.
VIDEO: "Elf Bowling" is presented by Screen Media Films in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. My copy occasionally had "Screening Copy Only" show up as a subtitle in the lower half of the screen, but otherwise looked like about what I'd imagine the final copy would look like. Sharpness and detail were perfectly adequate, showing off the film's limited CG animation about as well as one could expect. A few traces of artifacting were spotted, but the picture was otherwise clean and clear, with bright, well-saturated colors. While not the same as final copy, this screening copy did look fine.
SOUND: Crisp, clear stereo soundtrack.
Final Thoughts: 82 long minutes I'll never get back. "Elf Bowling" is an unfunny mess of bad jokes and a dull, thin story. Skip it.
The Film D