Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, Mary Steenburgen, Edward
Asner, Bob Newhart
Director: Jon Favreau
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1, Full Screen 1.33:1
Studio: New Line Cinema
Features: See Review
Length: 95 Minutes
Release Date: November 16, 2004
it's not a costume. I'm an elf. Well, technically I'm a human but I was raised
Elf is quite simply the funniest and most endearing holiday movie to come
around in some time. The only other movie it rivals in the funny department
would have to be Bad Santa, which of
course isn't intended for the target audience of this movie.
At first glance, I
was wondering if a film with such an edgy comedy talent like Will Ferrell in the
lead could succeed in both areas of pure hilarity and wholesome family
entertainment. Since the movie is aimed at a younger audience, it's important to
take note of the family entertainment factor. Elf easily succeeds in both departments.
Ferrell, in his
first big starring role, stars as an elf named Buddy. He's a bit different from
all the other elves in that he happens to acquire a height of 6 feet, which is a
giant compared to the normal elf size. When he starts to feel that he's lacking
something the other elves have in the toy making department, Buddy is told a
shocking revelation. He's not really an elf, but has been raised in elf-land
ever since he mistakenly crawled into Santa's sleigh during the Crinkle's stop
at an orphanage when Buddy was an infant.
In addition, Buddy
also discovers that he does, in fact, have a real father. Buddy then sets off to
New York City, where his biological father resides. He expects to discover a
whole new world where everyone is just as kind and friendly as they are in the
elf world. But of course, since this is New York City, nothing could be farther
from the truth.
The father turns
out to be something of a contemporary Scrooge named Walter Hobbs (James Caan).
Upon looking at Buddy, Walter can't even begin to take this 6 foot elf's story
seriously. Walter's personal physician (played by director Favreau) suggests
that he allow Buddy to move in with him and get to know his wife and other son.
Buddy also manages
to bewilder the employees of a department store. There, he tries to convince
everyone that there North Pole set up isn't really the North Pole. He gets into
frequent arguments with the store manager (Faizon Love) about what really goes
on in the North Pole. And a luminous co-worker named Jovie (Zooey Deschanel)
steals his heart.
Although it works
along a typical fish-out-of-water scenario, Elf
is filled with endless laughs, most of which involved Buddy's misunderstanding
of the new world around him. I instantly applauded when Buddy, having just
arrived in NYC, observes the window of a coffee shop that has a sign reading
"The World's Greatest Cup of Coffee". Buddy then walks into the shop
and congratulates the employees for a job well done. A later scene where he gets
into a scuffle with a department store Santa is priceless.
As an added bonus,
Favreau pays some homage to the beloved old Christmas TV specials, such as
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and Santa Claus is Coming to
Helmed by Will
Ferrell's wonderful childlike performance, and a pitch perfect mix of laughter
and holiday cheer, Elf is easily
destined to become a new holiday classic for years to come.
New Line has
created, yet again, a marvelous transfer of a movie. The 2 disc release wisely
offers the anamorphic widescreen version on Disc 1 and the full screen version
on Disc 2. The anamorphic picture is gloriously clear. The settings of New York
and the North Pole both look phenomenal in detail, which the presentation offers
a great deal of. Colors are strong and natural as can be, as expected.
The 5.1 mix
provided here does a most remarkable job in enlivening this Christmas comedy to
wondrous sounding heights. Music playback is a key in the sound performance,
with many holiday tunes thrown in for good measure, and a great deal of the
physical comedy pays off surprisingly well. A few technical effects play off
strong, too, like the climatic bit involving Santa's rocket powered sleigh. For
a comedy, a more than well done presentation.
New Line returns to
their Infinifilm best, with this jolly-loaded 2-disc package. Features are
spread across each disc.
In the Beyond the
Movie, we have several featurettes, including "Kids On Christmas",
"Deck The Halls", "Santa Mania", and "Christmas In
Tinsel Town", as well as a "Fact Track".
In the All Access
Pass features section, there are two commentary tracks; one with director Jon
Favreau and the one with Will Ferrell. There are also some deleted scenes, more
featurettes, including "Behind The Scenes: Tag Along With Will
Ferrell", "Film School For Kids", "How They Made The North
Pole", "Lights, Camera, Puffin!", and "That's A
Wrap...", as well as a Music From Elf segment.
There's also more extra goodies in the Fun 'N' Games area, featuring Elf
Karaoke, Read-Along, Elf - A Short Story of a Tall Tale, Buddy's
Adventure Game: The Race Down Mt. Icing, Elf In the City, Snowball Fight, Fix
Santa's Sleigh and Secret Elevator O' Fun.