November 2003

Reviewed by Wilson Morales

Distributor: New Line Cinema
Director: Jon Favreau
Producers: Jon Berg, Todd Komarnicki, & Shauna Weinberg
Screenwriter: David Berenbaum
Cinematography: Greg Gardiner
Music: John Debney
Cast: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, Ed Asner, Faizon Love, Bob Newhart, Mary Steenburgen, & Daniel Tay






Just when you thought Jim Carrey would be the last comedian to carry a Christmas film for the whole family to enjoy when he did “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, along comes Will Ferrell with his best performance to date in “Elf”, a wonderful and delightful film for all ages. It’s a film that will be a Christmas TV special for many years to come once its run in the theater and home video is over.

Told as a story by Papa Elf (Newhart), Buddy (Ferrell) was a healthy baby boy who stole away in Santa Claus’s goodie bag while he was working and was taken to the magical place at the North Pole where all the toys are built from. When Santa and the elves realize that Buddy is not one of their own, they keep it a secret from him and have Papa Elf raise him. Over the years, Buddy fits in with the community but has a problem catching up with his daily chores, which is meeting his quota of making 1000 toys. When he’s sent to check on the “Jack-in-the-box” toys, he overhears the secret that everyone has known but him, that he’s a human. In search of his roots, Buddy leaves for New York City to find his biological father. Always believing he was an elf, it’s hard for Buddy to forget the golden rules of life, which is to always smile and be happy. At the same time, part of eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner, involves eating anything sweet. Buddy waste no time eating the gum that’s stuck on the rails by the subway. Dressed up with the elf costume as his only outfit, Buddy doesn’t appear so strange when he enters the Empire State Building and goes straight to his father’s office. Since it the holiday season, everyone thinks he’s just a paid greeting card messenger. When his father (Caan), who by the way, doesn’t know Buddy exists as his son, sees Buddy as a joker with no appeal, Buddy tells him the truth. Thrown out of the building because no one believes him, Buddy goes to Gimbel’s and lands a job in the toy department, where he meets and is instantly smitten with Jovie, another store clerk. As soon as the manager (Faizon Love) tells the employees that Santa Claus is coming to town to talk to the kids, Buddy is overwhelmed with joy that his old friend is coming.

Seeing a fake Santa sets Buddy in a mood that gets him fired and arrested until dear old dad comes with bail money. Going home to see the rest of the family, Buddy meets his half-brother, who doesn’t think much of him until Buddy helps him in a snowball fight. As much as Buddy tries, he seems to mess up the things around him. Yet, he wants everyone to believe in Christmas and won’t stop until he can get as many folks off the naughty list as he can.

Ferrell, formerly of Saturday Night Live, has found a role that suits him. He’s genuinely funny and has the bones to prove it. His facial expressions are priceless; especially the scene when he hears that Santa’s coming to town and he goes, “Santaaaa!!” David Berenbaum has written a script that fits his needs. Ferrell’s height, mannerisms, and jokes all come in handy. He could definitely give Jim Carrey some competition in the comedy department in years to come. Favreau, who’s more known for acting than directing, has rounded up an all-star cast to aid Ferrell in his first lead role. Having Bob Newhart, a veteran comedian, was a nice surprise and the casting of Peter Dinklage, who’s riding high these days with his own film, The Station Agent, adds to the many highlights the film offers. One of the neat parts of the film that may go unnoticed is the animation that is used early on the film. It’s the sort of animation that reminds you of the animation features of yesterday such as “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. Elf is such a delight that if you don’t see it, you may wind up on the naughty list.