Synopsis: This hilarious Christmas film tells the tale of a young orphan child who mistakenly crawls into Santa's bag of gifts on Christmas Eve and is transported back to the North Pole and raised as an elf. Years later Buddy learns he is not really an elf and goes on a journey to New York City to find his true identity.
Will Ferrell shines in a role tailor-made for his unique brand of anything-for-a-laugh humor. It's not enough to give him credit for spending three-fourths of the film’s runtime in a humiliatingly goofy pair of yellow tights, green elfin jacket and curly-toed shoes however. One must also realize that every bit of Elf's success rests squarely on his big, green, flannel-clad shoulders.
Although the film’s plot is really just another redo of the classic fish-out-of-water story, its potential to serve as the Vaudevillian playground for Ferrell to display his slapstick brand of shenanigans isn’t lost on the filmmakers. They know what they have with Ferrell, so they wind him up and let him go. The payoff is big.
Ferrell plays Buddy who, as a baby, was accidentally stowed away in the toy bag of an inattentive Santa played by Ed Asner. Unfortunately, the mistake isn't noticed until Santa’s sleigh makes it all the way back to the North Pole. Buddy is raised by Papa Elf (Bob Newhart), who tries to teach him the skills necessary to become a contributing member to the jolly guy's workshop crew. But not only does Buddy uncomfortably tower over his 3-foot tall colleagues, he also fails to maintain his assigned quota of assembled Etch-a-Sketches, thereby prompting a reluctant transfer to the toy-testing department… which is better suited for the "special" elves.
Maybe it was when his legs began to hang over the bed, or perhaps when he became too big to fit in Papa Elf’s lap, but it’s not long before Buddy eventually gets suspicious about his biological origins and discovers that he’s not actually an elf, but rather a human being whose father (James Caan) lives in New York City with his second wife (Mary Steenburgen) and their son (Daniel Tay). With hopes of reconnecting to his real father and discovering his true identity, Buddy eventually sets out for the big city amongst the friendly farewells of Mr. Narwhal and the other misfit toys – a clever reference to the popular classic Christmas claymation TV specials. On the bustling streets of Manhattan, and dressed in his traditional Keebler garb, Buddy encounters a foreign world of busy bodies in need of hugs and plenty of Ho Ho Ho, from Jovie (Zooey Deschanel), a reluctant Gimbel’s Department store employee and eventual love interest, to a crotchety store manager and dear old dad himself. The story follows in the thematic footsteps of almost every holiday classic feature… by teaching everyone that the Christmas spirit resides in us all, some just need help discovering it.
Director Jon Favreau does an excellent job of pacing David Berenbaum's script. He's never unaware of the age - and subsequent attention span - of his audience, so the constant barrage of funny sight gags (including elfin flatulence), and plenty of "bumpkin in the big city" humor is always appropriate. Much like Tom Hanks in Big, most of Ferrell's success comes from his childish innocence and ignorant honesty.
James Caan is well cast in his role as the surly workaholic father who can't seem to find time for his son. He’s very convincing as a children's book publisher who would rather make a fast buck than get to know his newly discovered son. Mary Steenburgen, as always, is delightful as Buddy’s adoptive mother.
The love story between Buddy and Jovie is a pleasant surprise and could have used a bit more attention. An especially charming and very funny scene involves Buddy learning, from his stepbrother Michael, the ins-and-outs of asking a girl for a date.
Sure, Elf is for the kids and the story is truthfully quite stupid, but regardless, even the grown ups will delight in its endearing holiday charm and childish wit fueled by plates of Spaghetti topped with chocolate pop-tarts and maple syrup. Ferrell's kid-trapped-in-an-adult-body antics are sure to put a smile on the face of even the scroogiest of skeptics.
Available on Blu-ray - October 26, 2010
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles: English, Spanish; German
Audio: English: Dolby TrueHD; Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; German Dolby Digital 5.1.
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); Digital copy (on disc)
Warner pulls out all the stops - and some old ones - with its Ultimate Collector's Edition Blu-ray. The experience of revisiting this hilarious holiday classic begins with the fun packaging that surrounds the many goodies included within this Collector's Edition blu-ray set. The ELF-themed metal container resembles a Holiday cookie tin wrapped with a cardboard Christmas bow that lists the special edition's contents. Removing the lid of the tin is a bit like opening gifts on Christmas morning as it reveals an abundance of delicious goodies hidden inside. This one's all about the swag however as we soon learn there's nothing new included on the disc that we didn't get with last year's InfiniFilm DVD release. A bit disappointing, but worth the buy if you don't already own the DVD.
The included blu-ray disc presents the stunning 1080p transfer in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The movie contains many colorful scenes - from Buddy's bright green elf suit trimmed in electric yellow, to the brilliant holiday-lighted scenery - the hues are rich, vibrant, and deeply saturated, giving the entire experience a cheery, holiday feel. We did notice significant wall crawl and jittering however during some of the night scenes and most of the darkly lit interior shots. Also, the sharpness of the 1080 transfer tends to work against the seamlessness needed for CGI integration into live-action.
We don't remember such a significant spread across all speakers on its InfiniFilm DVD release, but the 5.1 audio makes good use of the full soundstage - especially for a children's comedy. Especially memorable is a little duet performed by Ferrell and Deschanel. Their rendition of Baby, It's Cold Outside resonates beautifully throughout the room. The scene takes place in a tiled locker room/shower and the echo-y attenuation gives the song a hauntingly ethereal feel. Crank it up!
Also included in the box are a 5"x7" Magnetic Elf picture frame that you can use to trim your own holiday pictures; 15 Elf gift tags; a 5-track Elf soundtrack featuring holiday classics; and a 14" Plush Elf Holiday Stocking.
All features were initially presented on the 2-disc InfiniFilm DVD release of last year.
- With actor Will Ferrell
- With Director Jon Favreau
- Tag Along with Will Ferrell - A day-in-the-life feature that follows the funny guy on a typical day of shooting. We follow Will Ferrell through hair, make-up, and wardrobe. Especially interesting is seeing how they created the snowball fight scene. FYI: CGI.
- Film School for Kids - Behind-the-scenes documentary. Unless you're really into the technical side of filmmaking - learning about things like script development, what producers do, how characters are created, how unions are dealt with, sound design, tech specs, etc - this one will be a bit dry.
- Lights, Camera, Puffin - Amimation. Covers the stop-motion aspects of the film and how they created the narwhal and puffin characters and incorporated them into the film.*Reviewer's pick of the box
- That's a Wrap - Post-production and editing. Again, unless you're into such things, this can be a bit dry as they touch on the post-production aspects of the film like editing, CGI, digital photography etc.
- Kid's on Christmas - A montage of video interviews. They ask kids to describe Santa Claus and talk about where he lives and who are his elves. An Art Linkletter, Kids Say the Darndest Things-type interview.
- Santa Mania - A video tour of several neighborhoods around the country that over-decorate for the Christmas holiday. They also visit Surfing Santa in California, a Santa costume shop, and a local community that purchased a gigantic store-top Santa fixture and now display it proudly in their town square.
- Christmas in Tinseltown - A boring documentary that covers the history and legacy of the annual Hollywood Christmas parade.
Fun and Games (with a play all option):
- Elf Karaoke - Song choices are We Wish You a Merry Christmas, Deck the Halls, and Jingle Bells.
- Buddy's Adventure Game
- Read Along
Fact Track: Reveals history, facts, and trivia about the movie. Kind of like the old MTV Pop-up Video.
Deleted and Alternate Scenes (with optional commentary):
- Buddy's talk with Papa
- Walter and the Nun
- Papa Tells Buddy the Truth
- Buddy and Leon
- Walter and Emily
- Extended Tuck-in
- Extended Miles Finch Fight
17 Chapter Stops with bookmarking capability
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