Length: 97 minutes
Release Date: Nov. 7, 2003
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Genre: Comedy, family, and fantasy
Stars: 3 out of 5
In “Elf,” a human boy is raised as an elf. He eventually wreaks havoc in the North Pole community because of his huge size and is later sent away to investigate his true identity. This comedy was written by David Berenbaum and directed by Jon Favreau. It stars Will Ferrell, Bob Newhart, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, and Ed Asner.
The “Elf” story begins with the narration of Papa Elf (Newhart) on Santa’s story. Asner portrays Santa in the film. Papa Elf tells the story of Santa getting distracted on one of his Christmas Eve rounds and accidentally coming home with a stowaway baby. Years after the incident, Papa Elf tells 6-foot-tall Buddy (portrayed by Ferrell) the secret behind his parents’ true story. Buddy decides to embark on a long journey back to New York to look for his real father. As expected, life in the big city is very different from what Buddy has been used to all his life.
Buddy’s father, Walter Hobbs (portrayed by Caan), seems like a nice guy at first glance. Buddy soon realizes his father is so preoccupied with work that he cannot spend time with him and his eight-year-old stepbrother, Michael (portrayed by Daniel Tay). Unlike most children of his own age, Michael does not believe in Santa. Michael’s stepmother is wise and extremely loving, but she is also fed up with Buddy’s strange habits that include a love for overly sugared foods.
Although Buddy meets a lot of surprises in New York City, the one that shocks him most is the New Yorkers’ apparent ignorance on the true meaning of Christmas. In fact, the city residents even lack the much-famed Spirit of Giving that pervades the Holiday. When Buddy finds a fake Santa in a department store, he accuses the Santa of sitting on a throne of lies. In all this chaos, he manages to find an attractive friend called Jovie (portrayed by Zooey Deschanel), who enjoys his quirky sense of humor and good nature.
“Elf” proves that a family comedy only needs a good actor and a funny story to come out hilarious. Ferrell is a good actor. Those who have watched the movie will agree that Buddy’s antics are extremely charming. Buddy’s antics are so funny because they are delivered with an innocence that effectively wins over the film viewers. A certain childlike honesty augments his portrayal of the character perfectly.
Most jokes in “Elf” are actually ridiculous, and those who prefer serious movies should give this one a wide berth. Those who decide to watch it, though, are guaranteed a rib-cracking comedy with a lot of lighthearted, comical lines.
Being consistent with the traditions of this genre style, “Elf” filmmakers heavily secularized the Christmas season. The movie focuses on the Spirit of Giving and acts of love. It doesn’t acknowledge any religious observance such as the birth of Christ. The only spiritual reference shown in the movie is two nuns, who are shown more than once. A piece loaded with spiritual innuendos would have probably received a flat reception, so avoiding religious affiliation was probably a good idea. As it is, “Elf” is a strong family entertainment piece.
“Elf” sits pretty and proud in the company of other holiday films such as “The Christmas Story,” “It’s a Wonderful Life”, and even “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” One interesting thing about the film is that different age groups can easily enjoy it. Some people have already labeled it as one of the funniest movies ever made by Ferrell. Whether or not this is true, it is a fact that the director of the movie, Favreau, played a great part in helping Ferrell to uncover his unique acting abilities and show them to the world. This kind of film leaves you with a warm smile at the end.
The cast’s extensive experience contributes to the film’s success. Ferrell’s previous movies include “Old School,” “Stranger than Fiction,” “The Other Guys,” and others. Caan, an American actor, is remembered for his roles in “Kiss Me Goodbye,” “El Dorado,” “The Godfather,” and others. Newhart has his sitcom “Newhart,” animated film “The Rescuers,” movie “Catch-22,” and other numerous productions. The veteran actor Asner is remembered for his portrayal of Lou Grant in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” which won him an Emmy-Award. Asner currently stars in “Michael, Tuesday and Thursday,” a Canadian TV series on CBC Television. These represent just a few of the talented cast members in “Elf.”