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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Movie Review: ELF


"We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup."
-- Buddy

Elf is a 2003 comedy directed by Jon Favreau that centers around a man trying to reconnect with his father. When he was put up for adoption as a baby, Buddy (Will Ferrell) accidentally crawled into Santa Claus's bag of toys one Christmas Eve and managed to make his way back to the North Pole. Filled with compassion, Santa (Ed Asner) passed the infant off to one of his older elves (Bob Newhart), who took it upon himself to raise the child. As Buddy grew, however, it became increasingly evident that he was, in fact, a human and not an elf. One day, Papa Elf decided to tell Buddy of his true past, and in a spur of emotion, Buddy decided to make his way to New York City to meet his father, Walter Hobbs (James Caan). Upon his arrival, however, Walter does not believe Buddy to be his son. Left alone in an unfamiliar city, Buddy does his best to get by, spreading holiday cheer to everyone around him. As time continues to pass, Walter starts to come to terms with the fact that Buddy may actually be his son, and with Christmas fast-approaching, it happens not a minute too soon.

Over the years, I've seen bits and pieces of this film, but I had never had the opportunity to sit down and watch it in its entirety. At the time of its release, I was a tad bit anti-Will Ferrell. I didn't quite understand the appeal of his humor, and while I'm still not the biggest fan of his work, I've come to appreciate what he's done for the comedy genre over the past decade. However, after seeing that Elf was very well-received from the critical community upon its initial release, I figured I'd give it a shot this holiday season.

The screenplay isn't anything drastically new, but it fits the mold of a Christmas film relatively well. We have a lead character trying to re-instill Christmas spirit into the lives of people who have lost sight of what the holiday really means. The big twist on the genre is that we're getting a man raised by elves who comes back to a human lifestyle, and that's where a lot of the film's comedy is generated. Seeing Buddy react to his human surroundings for the first time in his life is quite the comedic experience, and it's only heightened by the way in which Ferrell plays the part.

Ultimately, this is Ferrell's vehicle, and his manic presence is enough to keep you entertained throughout the film's entirety. He brings a childish charm to his performance, and he never once strays from his character. It's a very different role from what he's done in his other films, but at the same time, there's still quite a bit that's similar. He's over-the-top, loud and crazy, but the fact that he isn't delving into the raunchy and adult-rated humor makes this character all the more endearing. I'm sure Buddy strikes quite a chord with child audiences. The rest of the cast also fills out nicely. Caan is a great foil to Buddy's manic atmosphere, and although it's nowhere near his best performance, he's serviceable in this one. We get some good supporting performances from the likes of Mary Steenburgen and Zooey Deschanel; also, be on the lookout for a fantastic cameo appearance from Peter Dinklage.

Ultimately, there's nothing truly ground-breaking or new in Elf, but it still proves to be a fun little film for the holiday season. If you're not a fan of Will Ferrell's brand of comedy, you're going to have a tough time getting into this one, but if you are, then this might just be a must-see for you. I found myself chuckling consistently throughout the film, so that alone should tell you it's worth giving a watch if you haven't already done so.

Movie Review Summary
Grade: B+
1.5 Thumbs Up

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