Movie Review: Elf (2003)

Posted: December 29, 2012 in Comedy


Buddy (Will Ferrell) crawled into Santa’s (Ed Asner) bag of gifts one Christmas, as Santa was visiting the orphanage.  Buddy was taken to the North Pole and raised by a kindly elf named Poppa Elf.  (Bob Newhart)  30 years later when Buddy is 6’3” and not quick at making toys with the speed of the other elves, he had to be told the truth, he was a human.  Poppa Elf tells him the truth, that Buddy’s mom gave him up for adoption and then died, and his father, Walter Hobbes (James Caan) never knew Buddy was born.  Buddy sets out from the North Pole to find his dad, who is now a not so successful children’s book publisher.  Buddy finds his dad, and Walter of course thinks Buddy is some kind of Christmas gram, because Buddy is dressed in a green leotard.

After getting forcibly ejected from the Empire State building, Buddy finds himself at Gimbel’s department store, where he works on Christmas decorations, and meets Jovie, (Zooey Deschannel) a frustrated, but pretty department store employee.  After he hears from the department store manager (Faison Love) that Santa is coming to the store, Buddy stays up all night and decorates the store.  When he realizes that the Santa is not the real Santa, the resulting altercation lands Buddy in jail.  Walter bails Buddy out and gives Buddy a blood test.  Much to Walter’s chagrin, Buddy is his son.  With no better alternative, Walter takes Buddy home.

Walter’s wife Emily (Mary Steenburgen) and son Michael (Michael Tay) are equally skeptical of a 6 foot elf in a green leotard, who chugs soda and puts maple syrup on spaghetti.  But Buddy slowly starts to win people over, first his half-brother Michael, by winning a snowball fight with Michael’s bullies.  Then he wins Jovie over by taking her on a date, showing her Christmas trees and going skating in Rockefeller Center.

Things are not going well for Walter, his books are not selling, and to get Buddy out of his hair, Walter sends him to the mailroom.  His writers tell Walter that he needs to hire the hottest writer in children’s books, Miles Finch (Peter Dinklage) .  Just when Miles and Walter are making progress in the  meeting, Buddy bursts into the office, and since Miles is a little person, Buddy calls him an Elf, Miles leaves the office, mortally offended, and Buddy knowing that he ruined everything for his father, plans to run away.

Just as things seem darkest, Santa flies into New York.  His sleigh is damaged, and he needs Buddy to fix it.  Does Buddy fix Santa’s sleigh?  Does he reconcile with his father?  Can he build some Christmas spirit in cynical New York City?

This is one of three essential movies that I watch every Christmas. It’s A Wonderful Life is one, A Christmas Story is two, and this is three.  Some people might think it’s about an overgrown man who thinks he’s an elf, but it’s really about a man with the childlike innocence to believe in Santa Claus, trying to change the cynical hearts of those dearest to him. That’s what makes this movie one of my favorite movies.  Will Ferrell is the embodiment of that childlike innocence, and it’s gratifying to see him try to win people over with his happy, joyful spirit.  James Caan, Zooey Deschannel, and Michael Tay are wonderful as the cynical people who Ferrell tries to win over.  This movie is a testament to the power of true simplistic faith, and how that faith can change hearts.  Also, Will Ferrell is damn funny in this role, and Zooey Deschanel has a beautiful voice, which is nicely displayed here.  I think because Ferrell plays the role with such simplicity such ease, this is easily one of his best roles.  It’s a simple, short story effectively told, full of laughs and touching at the same time.  Watch it.

Elf.  Not short on laughs


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