- Directed by Jon Favreau
- November 7, 2003
A human raised as an elf learns the truth and seeks out his father in New York City.
In full disclosure I am not a Will Ferrell fan-at least in his film work. I loved him on Saturday Night Live, but I never really liked his movie work. Ferrell always plays the grown man child. That’s it. While that works in a skit on Saturday Night Live, I never really felt it worked that well for a feature-length presentation.
Ferrell’s character of Buddy in Elf is really not that different. Will Ferrell does his man child thing with a Christmas elf twist. Buddy is a grown man with the maturity of a toddler. The thing is it does work more often than not for me here in Elf.
Most of those moments come in his interactions with James Caan playing Buddy’s father Walter. Caan is a legendary actor and truth be told I am not sure why he took this. I am not saying doing something like this is beneath him but a Christmas comedy is a step outside of what I expect from him. The thing is being the talent that he is he did well. He played it straight and that helped make the humor land.
One flaw in the narrative is that Walter, who supposedly realizes the error of his ways with the help of Buddy, just abruptly changes. It’s not as if he builds a relationship with Buddy. He spends the bulk of the film ignoring him and pushing him away. There are no moments of character growth. No moments of brief Christmas spirit that show this greedy character has some kindness and/or Christmas joy.
Zooey Deschanel costars as Jovie, Buddy’s coworker at Gimbels who eventually falls for Buddy because…reasons. He is persistent and definitely will not leave her alone but what exactly starts it all? What charms her? What causes her to fall for him? Nothing I can see. She even brushes off Buddy singing with her while she was in the shower. While that might be cute if he was on the other side of the door, it gets weird and maybe a little creepy because he is in the same room.
Gimbels is featured as the workplace in this film. This is perhaps a nod to the store’s place, the final ones being closed about fifteen years before this movie was made, in Christmas culture in films such as A Miracle On 34th Street.
I am a little annoyed at the finale. Santa’s sleigh, powered in part by Christmas spirit, crashes in Central Park because the engine that aided it failed and there is not enough Christmas spirit in the world to keep it in the sky. Santa (Ed Asner) strongly implies that people cannot be shown something in order to get Christmas spirit but that is exactly what Walter’s other son Michael (Daniel Tay) does on television.
And is the message that Santa is what Christmas all about? I thought it was goodwill and charity and kindness.
I know there are passionate Elf fans out there, but I just do not get the passion. It is not a terrible movie, but it is not great either. Jon Favreau is a more than capable director and he handles the material well, but I just do not think the story itself is that special. The story does not move towards an ending but rather it happens because the credits are coming close and given the plot Walter needs to be redeemed and New York needs a little Christmas spirit.
Elf is okay and I would watch it again if it was turned on, but it is nothing I would seek out. If you have never seen it before I say give it a watch to at the minimum see what the hype is about. It is not terrible, but it is nothing that inspires me to seek it out to watch again.