2003
Rated: PG for violence, thematic elements, and mild language.
Genre: Kids/Family Comedy Romance Adventure
Directed By: John Favreau
Running Time: 1:35
Review by: Felix Vasquez Jr.
Review Date: 6/7/05
DVD Features:
Deleted Scenes
Additional Footage - 1. Tag Along With Will Ferrell
2. Film School For Kids
3. That's A Wrap...
4. Lights, Cameras, Puffins!
5. How They Made The North Pole
6. Deck The Halls
7. Christmas In Tinseltown
8. Santa Mania
9. Kids On Christmas
Audio Commentary - 1. Will Ferrell - Star
2. John Favreau - Director
Interactive Features:
Interactive Game - Buddy's Adventure Game
Karaoke
Read-Along
DVD-ROM Features:
Screenplay Access - 1. Read The Script While Watching The Film
DVD-ROM Game - 1. Make Your Own Christmas Book Activity
2. Send Personalized Greetings
ELF

 

What ultimately turns "Elf" from an okay movie to a good movie, is Will Ferrell. I'm not one to buy in to the hype for an actor unless they're actually good, but Will Ferrell presents such conviction and devotion to his character Buddy, that it's actually quite interesting after a while to see how he approaches this character. What "Elf" essentially has going for it in the long run is its sense of innocence approaching family and Buddy approaching the real world. The film while basically a story about an man who thinks he's an elf discovering the real world, it's also basically about losing ones innocence and grasp on their inner-child. Buddy, as a baby, crawled in to Santa's bag and were welcomed among the elves, but when he became a man, he discovers that he's really a human being.

Now he returns to his world searching for the family he never knew. While there, Buddy discovers his family, who have lost their grasp on life. James Caan is very funny as Buddy's father, a basic workaholic whose main goal is to work, and doesn't accept Buddy in to his life immediately. Caan is a great straight man to Buddy's antics on-screen, and we can't help but laugh because after all, Buddy doesn't know any better. Buddy turns from a nuisance to a basic breath of fresh air for his estranged family, and everyone around him as he tries to make everything and everyone around him better as people, and like the audience, his enthusiasm is irresistible and they can't help but fall for him. Will Ferrell gives such a good performance here and is both laugh out loud funny and endearing presenting such a conviction with his role and commits to this character giving a wide eyed exuberance throughout the entirety of the film, even when facing adversity and hardship.

There are just scenes here that will make you sympathize for Buddy, as he tries to gain acceptance in to the outside world and adjusting to society outside his home, and then there are scenes that will just make you laugh out loud, like when he fights a faux Santa at a shopping center, when he confronts a raccoon he thinks is a kitty, and when he's attacked by a little person who he thinks is an elf. Peter Dinklage gives a good spirited walk on role as a brilliant writer brought in to Caan's business who beats the hell out of Buddy after he confuses him for an elf. Dinklage is laugh out loud funny in his brief appearance and their tussle is priceless, my favorite part is when Buddy is taken to the doctor by his father and reacts to getting his blood drawn, it was a scene that had me in tears, laughing. Meanwhile the supporting characters do what they're supposed to like Caan, Steenburgen, and Zooey Deschanel who plays Buddy's love interest. Deschanel's character is really pretty and a great opposite to Buddy. This is a guiltless family comedy for all audiences with just a simple but very appealing story, and I couldn't help but really like it for what it was.

I just didn't buy the movie as a whole. I mean, the north pole looked incredibly artificial, especially for what they had to work with, and their tongue in cheek homage to the old classic holiday films of Rankin Bass was just too weak to even consider it clever. The clay-mation snowman and animals were cute but just too damn weird, and I think the producers forgot to remember that the Rankin Bass puppets were wood not clay. Regardless, the whole sequence within the north pole examining Buddy's everyday life was really vapid. The costumes, sets, and basic structure is odd and often times too goofy to take it seriously, and there's not enough emotional weight on Buddy's revelation, nor is there much emotional weight upon Buddy and his attempt to connect with his estranged family.

Would it have hurt to focus on the family more? Or on Buddy's inner-thoughts? And the whole love interest sub-plot involving Deschanel was just too broad to even bear any interest from me at all. She's barely in this movie, doesn't have much of a character at all, and then we're just supposed to believe she fell for Buddy without really much of an explanation. The climax also becomes very unsatisfying as suddenly Santa is brought in and now Buddy must get him back to the North pole. Why bring in such a bland plot device when the climax could have been a lot more low-key and sentimental? But instead it becomes cornier as suddenly everyone starts singing along suddenly and Buddy is trying to help Santa, and none of it just made any sense. It was too epic for a simple film such as this. And then the final moments involving Bob Newhart was just really cheesy and forced and it left me basically cringing. The film spends so much time showing off Ferrell's antics, that it just can't get a grasp on the actual story or supporting characters, so it just ends up being pretty good, instead of potentially great.

The film never reaches the potential it has with its many flaws, basic cheesy elements, and hackneyed script, but underneath it all, it has heart, which is accompanied by its great story, very good performances, and laugh out loud performance by Will Ferrell.

  • Director John Favreau has a cameo as a doctor.
  • Jim Carrey was originally set to star.

 

 

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