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Will Ferrell. Just that name should give you a good idea of where this is going already. ELF may be crazy, a little silly and beyond bizarre in places but this Ferrell-led comedy seems to have staked a place in the heart of Christmas.
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The story is that as a baby, Buddy the Elf (Ferrell) crawled into Santa’s sack and accidentally grows up at the North Pole, working in Santa’s workshop and believing he is an Elf who’s just slightly different to all the other Elves. One day when he finds out that he is actually human, Buddy goes off to New York to find his real father who is played by a rather mardy James Caan, a children’s book publisher called Walter Hobbs who’s in dire need of some Christmas spirit.
The whole opening of the film is a homage to American Christmas films of time gone by, an innocent look into animations such as RUDOLPH THE RED NOSE REINDEER (1964), and ELF even includes a cameo of Sam the Snowman from that classic who was originally voiced by Burl Ives, an absolute legend from the 1950s and 60s film era who starred in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF and much more.
ELF is directed by Jon Favreau who is the force behind the mighty IRON MAN. Here Favreau unravels a jaunt of insanity with little focus on a balanced narrative but none of that really matters. Watching a man dressed in green tights and a pointy hat as he tries to adapt to city life is simply an absolute guilty pleasure. There is a glut of visual and physical comedy gags, the type only Ferrell – the man with comic bones – can achieve effectively and they work brilliantly.
Buddy the Elf is an outcast in a world that doesn’t care and continually happy in own little Elf-like world, gibbering on frantically about the North Pole, Santa Claus and although he’s convincing the majority that he may be a little insane… they all begin to be captivated by his charm and definite likeability.
The latter half of the film cracks the whip at the classic ‘Santa saving Christmas’ tale. It takes the literal approach that Christmas spirit needs to be collected in order for Santa to exist. By inspiring people and making them truly feel that Christmas spirit then Santa Claus, Father Christmas and what other names you wish to give him can actually be real.
ELF is another one of those classic ‘fish out of water’ tales that we’ve all encountered. It also stars the lovely Zooey Deschanel (the girl with a singing clause in her contract? We think so!) as love interest Jovie, Mary Steenburgen as the wife of Walter Hobbs trying to cope with the madness and the legendary Bob Newhart as Papa Elf.
ELF deserves to be on the Christmas list because it is daft, carefree and once again really has something special adding to that warm glow of the Christmas spirit in this child-like and innocent adventure.