Starring: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel
Eleven years ago, audiences around the world were introduced to Buddy the Elf (Ferrell), a human man who snuck into Santa’s bag as an infant and was raised as an elf at the North Pole. Buddy’s unnatural size and irregular clumsiness quickly make him stand out from his miniature colleagues and he becomes a bit of an outcast. Eventually, Buddy’s adoptive father (Bob Newhart) tells him the truth: that he was born to human parents in a magical land called “New York City.” Santa gives Buddy some final instructions and sends him off to the real world to find his real dad and discover his true identity.
Of course, madness ensues as Buddy and his child-like behavior clash with real-world customs, causing problems at home and in the community. His actual father (Caan) has an incredibly hard time coming to grips with the fact that he just met his 30-year-old son for the first time and the local department store must adjust to the typhoon that is Buddy’s Christmas spirit.
Along the way, Buddy meets a friendly co-worker (Deschanel) who reluctantly accepts Buddy’s oddball personality – and just in time, too, because Santa is in trouble and society, as a whole, is running low on Christmas cheer! Without an adequate amount of merriness, Christmas may come to an end, altogether! With time ticking down on Christmas Eve and with Santa in dire need of an elf’s assistance, the dynamic duo of Buddy and Jovie might be the Jolly Old Elf’s last line of defensive in the battle to restore faith in Santa Claus.
First and foremost, there may never be a cleaner, more family-friendly, live-action movie starring Will Ferrell, so don’t let that be a deterrent from introducing your kids to Buddy the Elf. Ferrell is at his best (perhaps an all-time best?), providing constant humor and genuinely funny dialogue and gags throughout the film. Additionally, looking back, this movie seems like it was basically a launching pad for Zooey Deschanel’s dual-threat career and it’s fun to see a pre-fame Peter Dinklage for a scene, too.
Likely the movie’s best quality is its instant quotability – and viewers of every age will be spouting off lines for years to come. (“Fran-cis-co…”, am I right?) “Elf” also features probably the best snowball fight in the history of cinema and a gut-busting attempt to put a star on the top of a Christmas tree. All in all, “Elf” is full of light-hearted and playful performances that are fun for everybody and the movie has only gotten better with age.
Aside from all thee goofiness, deep down is a cute story about family relationships and the film touches on the non-commercial side of Christmas, as well, so there’s that, too.
Despite annual offerings and a plethora of made-for-TV movies on the Hallmark Channel, good, quality Christmas films are few and far between. Thinking back, there have likely only been a handful of great holiday films in your lifetime. You know them. You can name them. But how many of those movies have come out in the last 10 years? None of them? Furthermore, how many of the holiday movies made in, say, the last 20 years are as easily marketable as “Elf”? Buddy has endeared himself to audiences the world over and is arguably the most recognizable Christmas character (other than Santa, Frosty and Rudolph, of course) in this generation.
The one downside to this DVD is its wonky set-up for bonus features and lack of subtitles, which you can read below, but, other than that, it’s all good in the neighborhood. With that being said, the DVD is not perfect and neither is the movie, but it’s definitely worth your time to watch it once a year. That’s a small commitment to make and you’ll be rewarded for having done so.
With only a month to watch all of your favorite Christmas movies, you’ve got to pick carefully. After 11 years, it’s safe to say that, not unlike Bob Newhart’s character, families have adopted “Elf” into their regular queue of holiday films, so join the party and get a head start on your Hollywood wish list by watching (or re-watching) “Elf” this Christmas season.
Similar movies: “The Santa Clause” (1994), “The Polar Express” (2004), “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (2000)
DVD bonus features:
– Audio in English, Spanish
– infinifilm Mode: Optional feature which provides pop-ups throughout the film that link to bonus features and provide trivia and behind-the-scenes facts. While these features are also available on a scene-by-scene basis through the main menu, selecting the features this way will always take you to a particular scene in the movie, where you’ll have to select the link manually. Also, if you want to go back to the menu to select the next bonus feature, you have to wait through the cutesy pop-up-book intro every time. infinifilm Mode works just fine, but it would be much easier and user-friendly if the features had been offered in a menu of their own like a normal DVD. Oh well.
– DVD-ROM and online features are also available if you put the DVD in your computer, but… who does that??
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Studio: New Line Cinema
Running time: 97 minutes
MPAA rating: PG for “some mild rude humor and language,” some suggestive dialogue and situations and some sarcastic comments about parents’ involvement in holiday traditions that might upset some savvy youngsters.
Costars Bob Newhart, Mary Steenburgen, Daniel Tay, Edward Asner, Peter Dinklage
DVD release date: November 16, 2004
Looking to find “Elf” on DVD or Blu-ray in the Salt Lake area? Check out these suggested links:
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