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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. The movie has been a labor of love for Todd Komarnicki, one of the founding members of the production company Guy Walks Into a Bar. The script came to him in 2001, but writer David Berenbaum had been developing it since 1996.

Elf is a fairy tale aimed at both the funny bone and the heart. It's about a boy named Buddy (Will Ferrell) who grows to manhood in Santa's workshop at the North Pole without realizing that he is a human being not an elf. When the truth is finally revealed, Buddy heads off to Manhattan to find his real family. In the big city, his childlike innocence and clear apprehension of the difference between "naughty" and "nice" has a transforming effect on everyone around him. For Komarnicki, that childlike innocence reflects virtues central to the Christmas tradition.

Komarnicki's interests in filmmaking run far and wide. The films most meaningful to him, the titles that draw him back again and again, are Wim Wenders' meditative Paris, Texas and Alan Parker's unsettling drama Birdy, about a Vietnam vet's fractured psyche. His current projects further reflect this diversity of interests: ...

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Todd Komarnicki: Producer, Director, Writer—and Believer
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November 2003

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