Xmas: 'Elf' (2003) Dir. Jon Favreau
A comedy with heart and lots of festive spirit channeled through Will Ferrell as Buddy the elf as he sets out to find his family and save Christmas...
After a visit to an orphanage, Santa (Asner) discovers a stowaway baby in his sack. Old Papa Elf (Newhart) adopts the baby and calls him Buddy (Ferrell), watching him grow over many years.
Santa reveals to Buddy he is adopted and his birth father, Walter Hobbs (Caan), resides in New York. Buddy sets off for the city, but it's not as easy as he expected. He simply wants to meet his real father and be part of a family.
Befriending Walter's wife Emily (Steenburgen) and son Michael (Tay), Buddy works to convince Walter he is truly a Hobbs, but it's hard to do in a very cynical world. Buddy finds a friend in store worker Jovie (Deschanel) and vows not to stop until he can unite his family and spread festive spirt loudly for all to hear...
I'm not a huge fan of Will Ferrell, but this family comedy showcases his more "good natured" humour, with a tight script and genuine comedy rather than gross-out gags and jokes. He captures the innocence of the child-like Buddy, naïve to the wider world and keeping the Christmas spirit alive in a world turning cynical and commercial. There's a little Buddy in all of us, and it'd be a warmer place if it came out more.
With strong support from James Caan as the tough-talking but emotionally torn father and the beautiful Zooey Deschanel as a girlfriend we'd all love to have who says it like it is but is more attractive for it with nothing but decency in her, the characters are fun, engaging and all help build Buddy's world without being clichéd. Kudos to the Gimbel manager, played by Faizon Love, who cracks me up every time he's on screen with his dead-pan rapport against Buddy.
Managing to be something more humane and personal than your typical Christmas film, it does however turn into the festive fantasy towards the finale when we have a full blown race to save Christmas - yes it's cheesy but actually good fun. As with the opening also at the North Pole, blending live-action and animation like the festive films of the past, this is a wide-eyed spectacle seen through the eyes of Buddy that will easily appeal to all ages and make young and old chuckle.
The comedy comes from seeing the fish-out-of-water template played to great effect, and lots of sight gags and one-liners coming thick and fast.
It's harmless fun, but is something a little different for Christmas time with a great cast, a good script and a real sense of heart and family.
'Elf' is a New Line Cinema / Guy Walks Into a Bar production