- Rated PG
- Buy the BD
All photos © Warner Bros.
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
hristmas movies are a dime a dozen, but there are only a handful that truly deserve to be called classics. These are the same films that we all watch with our families every holiday season. “It’s a Wonderful Life.” “A Christmas Story.” “Miracle on 34th Street.” You know the ones. Of course, they’re also pretty dated, so it was only a matter of time before a new Christmas movie came along to freshen things up a bit. The jury is still out on whether “Elf” is that film, but thanks to a charming story packed with humor for all ages, it’s one we wouldn't mind adding to the rotation.
Buddy the Elf (Will Ferrell) has always been a little different, but he never considered that he might be human – an orphan who was adopted by Santa and left in the care of Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) after wandering into his toy bag on Christmas morning 30 years ago. But despite a childlike innocence and infectious joyfulness, Buddy's enormous height advantage and lack of toy-making skills triggers the realization that he might not be an elf after all. Intent on finding a place where he truly belongs, Buddy leaves the North Pole for New York City to track down his biological father (James Caan) and spread the Christmas spirit.
Though it can be a little immature at times when wallowing in all the fart and burp gags, “Elf” makes the most of its lowbrow humor by letting its star – never one to turn down the chance to overembellish – off his leash and free to wreak comedic havoc however he pleases. Will Ferrell is a riot as the naïve, happy-go-lucky Buddy, and his early scenes in the Big Apple where he explores the various intricacies of human society is easily the highlight of the entire movie. This might just be Ferrell’s funniest role to date, although the rest of the cast is great as well – from Caan’s short-tempered father, to Zooey Deschanel’s bubbly love interest, to even Peter Dinklage in a small role (no pun intended) as a popular children's book author whom Buddy mistakes for a real elf.
The movie itself is kind of like a children’s book brought to life, with the production and costume design evoking memories of the Rankin-Bass specials, and a stop-motion opening sequence that further pays tribute. Director Jon Favreau is clearly a fan, and although this is only his second time behind the camera, he shows a real knack for storytelling. The film does stumble a bit towards the end in its attempt to inject a little holiday schmaltz into the story, but “Elf” does such a great job of winning you over early on that you’ll gladly endure it. That might not make it a classic, but it's still a lot of fun.