Elf delivers oversized laughter and plenty of holiday cheer

Nov. 18, 2003, midnight | By Ellie Blalock | 17 years, 2 months ago

As far as heart-warming, family-friendly holiday films go, Jon Favreau's Elf can not hold a candle to beloved classics like Frosty the Snowman and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. What it can do, however, is make you laugh. And what more would you expect from SNL's hilarious Will Ferrell doing what he does best: obliviously stumbling through amusing plotlines and slapstick humor.

Sure, Elf is a cliché. A money-obsessed, scrooge-like character goes from ignoring his family and friends to embracing life in all its glory. And, yes, someone saves Christmas (guess who). However, Ferrell delivers the in-your-face humor his fans have come to know and love, and the cute story of a man giving up his workaholic tendencies and learning to love his oddball son goes off without a hitch.

Buddy (Will Ferrell) is a human who ends up living among elves at the North Pole after he accidentally crawls into Santa Claus' (Ed Asner) sack when Santa visits his orphanage one Christmas Eve. Buddy is adopted by Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) and raised just like all the other short, impish toy makers. But as an elf, Buddy is quite incompetent. Not only can Buddy not fit into elf shoes, showers and desks; he cannot keep up with his daily toy quota. Eventually, Papa Elf and Santa decide to tell the naïve Buddy that he is, in fact, human, and that his real father, who does not yet know that his son exists, lives in New York City.

Buddy sets off on foot for the Big Apple, on the way meeting a not-so-friendly raccoon and walking through the entire Lincoln Tunnel. Once in the city, Buddy tries to visit his father, a children's book editor, in the Empire State Building. His father, Walter Hobbs, (James Caan), denies that Buddy is his son and sends Buddy out onto the street, alone and lost amid the hustle and bustle of city life. This is when Buddy finds Gimball's, a department store already decked-out for Christmas. Buddy heads for the Christmas floor, where he meets Jovie (Zooey Deschanel), a female Gimball's elf. Buddy proclaims that he is happy to finally meet another human who embraces "elf culture."

Meanwhile, Buddy's father's book company is facing issues; he needs to put out a good book before Christmas. This becomes difficult after Buddy moves in with Walter, his wife Emily and his son Michael. Buddy wreaks havoc in the apartment, stuffing cookies in the VCR and pouring his favorite food, syrup, all over his spaghetti dinner. Ferrell absolutely shines at this point in the film, his antics bringing comic relief to the melancholy Hobbs family.

Although Elf is an adorable and hilarious film, its first half far eclipses the second. Yes, its great to see Ferrell eating spaghetti with M&Ms and chocolate sauce but seeing him fly away in Santa's sleigh does not have quite the same spark. What sets Elf apart from other holiday films is its lack of sappy, tear-filled scenes, so the "saving Christmas" part at the end of the film seems out of place and much less original.

Elf, with solid acting, a hilarious script and the requisite cheerful holiday tone, is a genuinely fun film appropriate and enjoyable for the whole family.

Elf runs 95 minutes, and is rated PG.

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Ellie Blalock. Ellie is a SENIOR in the CAP program at Blair. She enjoys such activities as traveling, being able to say "water" in six languages and having heart-to-heart chats with eccentric politicians. If you're in need of a laugh, please ask Ellie about her driving record...you … More »

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