It’s either a really cute or a really creepy idea of a six foot man dressed in tights walking the streets. Luckily in this case it’s cute and that’s mainly due to the wide-eyed innocent of Will Ferrell’s performance and never has a man looked better in a green-velvet doublet and yellow tights.
One Christmas Santa (Ed Asner) arrives at an orphanage to delivery presents, he is distracted by a plate of cookies and a glass of milk. During this attack of the munchies he fails to notice a baby crawl into his toy sack. On arriving back at the North Pole the child is discovered and the decision is made that he can stay.
30 years later that child grows into a young man, Buddy (Will Ferrell) who lives amongst the other elves making toys all day. He is oblivious to his origins and doesn’t realise that even though he’s twice as tall as everyone else he might not be an elf.
One day he accidentally discovers that he is a human and after seeking advice from his adopted father Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) he says goodbye to the North Pole and heads off to find his biological father, Walter (James Caan).
Walter lives in New York and is a publishes children’s books which might suggest that he is a nice guy, but not only is workaholic who neglects his wife Emily (Mary Steenburgen) and son Michael (Daniel Tay), he is also on Santa’s ‘naughty’ list.
Understandably Walter is none too thrilled when a man wearing tights turns up at his office claiming to be his son and he’s even less thrilled to discover that Buddy wants to be part of his family permanently. Will Buddy be able to convince everyone that he isn’t a nutter and that he really does belong with Walter and his family?
The real charm and success of Elf is without a doubt Will Farrell. Farrell, another alumni of Saturday Night Live, plays Buddy with a childish innocence and charisma that makes the film. His naivety makes his faux pas behaviour in every situation superb to watch – whether he’s putting Maple Syrup on everything (including spaghetti), struggling with escalators, beating up a store Santa (they are impostors who sit on a throne of lies!) or constantly putting up decorations wherever he goes Farrell is superb and totally convincing.
Farrell is helped by some good performances by the rest of the cast with Bob Newhart standing out. Newhart’s dry wit and delivery as the narrator of this story are ideally suited and he even has a few touching moments in his brief screen time.
James Caan is on autopilot for most of the film but he doesn’t detract from the overall process. Zooey Deschanel also makes an appearance as an angel-voiced girl who Buddy falls for.
Jon Favreau, better known as an actor, shows that he knows how to direct and pace a comedy film and manages to keep the laughs coming at a constant stream. The ending is more feel-good than slushy and there is enough charm to please even the grown-up who will undoubtedly be dragged by the kids to see Elf (which isn’t a metaphor). This is definitely one of the best Christmas films of recent years.
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