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"Elf" - Movie Review

  • Holly McClure Movie Reviewer
  • 2003 11 Nov
  • COMMENTS
"Elf" - Movie Review

Genre:  Comedy, Family

Rating:  PG (for some mild rude humor and language)

Release Date:  November 7, 2003

Actors:  Will Ferrell, James Caan, Mary Steenburgen, Zooey Deschanel, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, Daniel Tay, Peter Billingsley

Director:  Jon Favreau

Special Notes:  Producer Todd Komarnicki is a talented Christian who takes pride in the fact that this is a fun family film everyone can enjoy. Zooey Deschanel is the daughter of Director of Photography, Caleb Deschanel (“The Black Stallion”, “The Natural”, “The Patriot”), who filmed Mel Gibson’s new movie, “The Passion of Christ.”

Plot:  The tale begins with Papa Elf (Newhart) telling a story about Santa (Asner) making his usual Christmas Eve rounds, getting distracted and accidentally bringing a stowaway baby back in his toy bag. Years later when a 6-ft. Buddy (Ferrell) notices that he’s a little different than all the other elves, Papa Elf tells him the truth about his parents and soon the long-lost son journeys back to New York to find his father. Life in the big city is very different from the North Pole. His father Walter (Caan) seems like a nice guy, but he’s too busy to spend time with Buddy or his eight-year-old stepbrother (Tay), who amazingly does not believe in Santa. His stepmother (Steenburgen) Emily is a loving and wise woman, but even she has a problem with his strange habits and bizarre sugar-loaded diet. Buddy is shocked to discover that almost everyone in New York has no idea what the true meaning of Christmas is all about. He stumbles onto a department store with a fake Santa where he accuses him of “sitting on a throne of lies!” Nobody seems to believe in anything, much less the spirit of giving. The only friend he manages to make is a beautiful girl named Jovie (Deschanel) at Gimbels who enjoys Buddy’s sweet disposition and quirky sense of humor. Buddy uses his elfin charm to win over his family and manages to bring the spirit of Christmas back to a city that seemingly lost it. 

Good:  In the company of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “The Christmas Story” and “Rudolph,” Director Jon Favreau has created a holiday classic that could easily become a family tradition. It’s a film for all ages filled with heart, humor and lots of laughter! I think this is one of the funniest movies Ferrell has ever made, and it's due in part to the direction of Favreau. The talented director has managed to capitalize on Ferrell’s unique and uncanny ability to portray a sweet, simple (even goofy) man-child who embodies the definition of childlike innocence. In most cases, after a while this kind of character would become nauseating and/or be overkill. But in this particular storyline, the character of a grownup elf (who discovers he’s really a human) is clever, endearing and appealing to the “kid” in all of us. This is a story that will remind adults of how fun it is to believe in what we can’t see and appreciate and embrace the things we can see -- with childlike faith. This is a family-friendly story that excludes a lot of language, bathroom humor and crude jokes usually found in a Ferrell movie (finally a Will Ferrell movie parents don’t have to worry about!). An incredible cast also lends to the success of this movie. It took me a while to warm up to Caan in the role of the father; but once I did, he seemed perfect for the part. On the other hand, Newhart as tiny Papa elf and Asner as Jolly Old Saint Nick, were perfectly cast to begin with, giving the story credibility where it needed it. In case you’re not familiar with Zooey (rhymes with Joey) Deschanel (“Almost Famous”, “The Good Girl”), she plays Buddy’s love interest and besides being an incredible actress who has a dry wit in her zingy deliveries, she sings a catchy duet with him that reminded me of an old-fashioned musical. This is a story that has something for everyone:  singing, family values, a message about believing in what you can’t see, love, forgiveness and cherishing those closest to you.  Kids will also enjoy the spin on Santa. I promise you’ll walk away with a smile on your face, and it will stay that way every time you think about "Elf." It’s that funny! 

Bad:  There's some mild rude humor like belching after drinking a coke or kids calling each other names, plus a few crude words from Caan.

Bottom Line:  I can’t say enough good things about this movie! I’ve seen it twice, and I laughed as hard the second time as I did the first! I consider this to be the perfect holiday present for the whole family! So, you'd better watch out and you'd better not cry! And in keeping with the holiday spirit, I’m gonna tell you why! Give yourself "the gift of 'Elf'" for Christmas and discover the simple pleasure of believing in the spirit of Christmas!