Thursday, December 6, 2012

Elf (2003) - The Strangest Christmas Film

Elf 2003 Will Farrell film poster
"Elf" (2003).

Jen Lilley Christmas Movies
Jen Lilley Christmas Movies
"Elf" (2003), directed by Jon Favreau, isn't your normal Christmas movie. There aren't any ghosts of Christmas past or future, nobody is getting foreclosed upon, Kris Kringle isn't fighting for his sanity in a New York courtroom. If you like Will Ferrell films, though, you will love this child-like take on the legends of the holiday season.

Elf 2003 Will Farrell holding a globe of NYC on the DVD
Nice artwork on the "Elf" DVD.

Buddy (Will Ferrell) is raised at the North Pole by Papa Elf (Bob Newhart), but he isn't like the other elves. Turns out he was a normal human baby who crawled into Santa's (Ed Asner) sack one Christmas and was taken along for the ride.

Bob Newhart as Papa Elf in Elf 2003
Bob Newhart as Papa Elf in "Elf."

Papa Elf, though, knows Buddy's history. His real father, Walter Hobbs (James Caan), never knew of his existence but works in New York City. Buddy wants to meet him, so he sets off for the Big Apple.

Will Farrell laughing on set of Elf 2003
Look! Buddy is laughing! Someone get a camera!

Walking the streets of New York, Buddy - still dressed in his elf costume - has difficulty understanding common practices. Seeing a sign on a store that it makes great pizza, he goes in and congratulates the staff, to their bemusement. Taking everything literally, he fails to understand the complexities of modern life.

Zooey Deschanel in Elf 2003
Zooey Deschanel sure looks a lot like Reese Witherspoon in some "Elf" shots....

Arriving at his father's office, Walter calls security on Buddy, who sarcastically tells him to "get back to Gimbel's." Going there, Buddy meets Jovie (Zooey Deschanel). After a scuffle at the store, Buddy is arrested, and Walter reluctantly bails him out. A DNA test confirms that he is Walter's son.

Walter at a business meeting in Elf 2003
Walter with a pompous business associate in "Elf."

Buddy befriends his half-brother Michael (Danny Tay), then goes on a date with Jovie. Interrupting one of Walter's business meetings, Buddy insults a client and Walter tells him to leave. Michael finds out that Buddy indeed has left and convinces Walter to put his family first for a change, and they go looking for Buddy.

Buddy at breakfast in Elf 2003
Some of the funniest scenes in "Elf" are of Buddy just doing simple things.

Buddy is childlike in his enthusiasm and passions, which makes it easy to relate to him. "Elf" thus is a good-natured holiday film that can be put on the same shelf classics such as "Miracle on 34th Street." Directed by Jon Favreau from a script by , there is nothing that needs to be edited out for television. It is a fun film that has undeniable wit and charm, though some might think it is a bit precious at times. The real surprise is James Caan, who is believable as a caring husband and father. Zooey Deschanel, on the other hand, makes for a good Reese Witherspoon clone, but doesn't really make much of an impact. This is a Will Ferrell movie from start to finish, and anyone appearing in it is going to have to fight for attention.
Buddy laughing in Elf 2003
Will Ferrell laughing in "Elf."

It isn't your usual Will Ferrell "Ron Burgundy" film. He reins it in, and you may keep expecting him to let the sarcastic remarks fly, but he never does. He seems to laugh throughout this film. Bob Newhart is fun to see as well, his deadpan humor perfectly setting up Ferrell's character.

Buddy with Santa in Elf 2003
Will Ferrell seems to laugh right throughout "Elf" as he rides along with Ed Asner.

My one caution about "Elf" is that it really helps if you have a childlike sense of wonder about the world. There is a lot of raw, uninformed innocence in this one that may have you grabbing the remote in disgust and changing to something else. So, if you are jaded and not interested in a simple view of the world with corny gags and amiable people, skip "Elf."  If you can get into it, however, "Elf" is a wonderful way to spend a holiday evening.

Elf 2003 poster
"Elf" (2003).


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