Elf

"OK"

Elf Review


After years of specializing in playing obnoxiously oblivious nitwits, "Saturday Night Live" alum Will Ferrell has finally hit upon a role perfectly tuned to his niche talent -- an obnoxiously oblivious nitwit who, after crawling into Santa's toy bag as a baby one Christmas, grew up at the North Pole thinking he's one of the toy-making elves.

Buddy the elf's inherent kindheartedness and selfless good intentions are the saving-grace elements that Ferrell's performances have always been missing, and even though I've always had a hard time stomaching the guy, I have to admit, I loved him in "Elf."

A rare Christmas comedy that is somehow both astringently droll and full of family-friendly holiday spirit, the story begins at the North Pole where the time has come for buddy's adoptive father (the understatedly ironic Bob Newhart, also the film's storytime-style narrator) to sit the clueless and comparatively colossal 36-year-old on his lap and explain why he's three feet taller than his peers and "the only baritone in the elf choir."

Realizing he's been a "cotton-headed ninnie-muggins" (the apparent swear word draws a shocked gasp from the other elves), Buddy takes a little advice about the human world ("If you see gum on the street, don't pick it up! It's not free candy."), says goodbye to a snowman pal (a tongue-in-cheek homage to stop-motion animated TV Christmas specials) and sets out to find his real father -- a chintzy, contemptuous Manhattan children's books publisher (the amusingly derisive James Caan) who, much to Buddy's wide-eyed dismay, is on Santa's "naughty list."

Ferrell's native ability to shut off any hint of self-awareness and play this character's enthusiastic naiveté with endearing authenticity helps "Elf" overcome some absurd plot devices as Buddy blunders through the Big Apple after inevitably being thrown out of his skeptical father's office. Then, naturally drawn to the Christmas section of a department store, he makes a scene by belligerently outing the Santa-suited guy hearing children's wish lists and gets arrested. (The real Santa is played by Ed Asner with an amusing touch of grandfatherly crustiness.)

When Dad begrudgingly posts Buddy's bail and takes him home, more havoc ensues. ("We can't just throw him out in the snow," wife Mary Steenburgen insists after one disaster. "Why not?" says Caan. "He loves the snow.") But Buddy has a way of wearing down people's resistance, which also comes in handy back at the department store, where he returns to infuse a pretty but cynical Santa's helper (Zooey Deschanel) with some needed seasonal cheer.

Directed by Jon Favreau (best known as the writer and star of "Swingers"), "Elf" strikes a nimble balance between its kid-conscious sensibilities and its snarky sense of humor, often finding common ground in Ferrell's willingness to do anything for a laugh. No matter how old you are, it's blissfully bewildering to watch him devour Buddy's breakfast: a bowl of leftover spaghetti, M&Ms, marshmallows, Pop Tarts, chocolate sauce and syrup.

But the movie's seemingly obligatory subplot, about a shortage of Christmas spirit causing a power crisis onboard Santa's sleigh, never quite takes off -- even when the sleigh itself finally does. Favreau doesn't have a firm enough grip on that spirit to build it to a proper crescendo, leaving the film's contrived Santa-vs.-NYPD climax feeling flat as Buddy and the girl unconvincingly rally Caan and other sardonic New Yorkers into a sing-along.

Even with this significant shortcoming, "Elf" may have the goods to become a perennial favorite. I'd watch it again, and after all, I'm the guy who can't stand Will Ferrell.



Elf

Facts and Figures

In Theaters: Friday 7th November 2003

Box Office USA: $173.4M

Box Office Worldwide: $173.4M

Budget: $32M

Distributed by: New Line Cinema

Production compaines: New Line Cinema, Guy Walks into a Bar Productions, Gold/Miller Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Fresh: 149 Rotten: 29

IMDB: 6.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Buddy, as Jovie, Daniel Tay as Michael, as Walter, as Papa Elf, as Santa, as Deb, as Morris, as Emily, as Eugene, as Gimbel's Santa, as Gimbel's Manager, as Miles Finch, as Fulton, Leon Redbone as Leon the Snowman, as Maymay

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Notorious British filmmaker Nick Broomfield teams up with Austrian music documentary producer Rudi Dolezal to...

The Mummy Movie Review

The Mummy Movie Review

To launch their new Dark Universe franchise, Universal has taken an approach that mixes murky...

Advertisement
My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

Daphne du Maurier's 1951 mystery-romance novel has been adapted for theatre, radio, TV and film,...

Wilson Movie Review

Wilson Movie Review

It's never helpful when a comedy becomes a bit too smug about its own quirkiness....

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is...

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

This British satirical comedy may be a bit of a mess, but since it's based...

Detour Movie Review

Detour Movie Review

This may look like a rather typical American indie thriller, but British filmmaker Christopher Smith...

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Boldly optimistic, this action-packed adventure breathes fresh life into the DC universe with a welcome...

Baywatch Movie Review

Baywatch Movie Review

Clearly, it's a risky proposition adapting a cheesy vintage TV series for the big screen:...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.