I just like to smile. Smiling's my favorite!
Elf is directed by Jon Favreau and stars Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, Mary Steenburgen, Daniel Tay, Ed Asner, and Bob Newhart.
On the surface, Elf looks like nothing more than just another feel-good Christmas movie whose story depends on the resolution of one person's cynicism and general disgust towards the Christmas season and everything jolly that goes with it. But it seems every year, Elf reaffirms how it does indeed stand out from the crowd and continues to establish itself as a must-see annual Christmas viewing. That largely has to deal with the fact that the center spotlight in Elf is not on that Ebenezer Scrooge/Grinch character that hates everyone else. No, for the spotlight is on that happy-go-lucky, "I love everything about Christmas" person who simply wants to cheer everyone up and make it a wonderful Christmas for people far and wide.
That person being Buddy the Elf (Ferrell). On Christmas Eve one year, the baby Buddy crawls into Santa's toy sack and is taken back to the North Pole. The elves discover the baby, giving him the name Buddy because he is wearing "Little Buddy Diapers", and Papa Elf (Newhart) agrees to adopt the baby himself. Buddy grows up believing that he is an elf, but his human size inhibits his ability to keep up with the other elves, and he is eventually demoted to toy testing. Buddy overhears that he is a human, and Papa Elf explains to Buddy that he was born to Walter Hobbs (Caan) and Susan Wells, being given up for adoption. Susan passed away and Walter now works as a children's book publisher at the Empire State Building in New York. Walter is unaware that Buddy exists and, to Buddy's horror, is on the naughty list because of his selfish behavior. Santa tells Buddy that he may be able to save Walter from the naughty list, and so Buddy sets out for New York to meet his father and fill him with the Christmas spirit.
- Buddy's overly-happy attitude makes him susceptible to being annoying, but Ferrell dodges annoyance gracefully with a performance that is as charming as it is humorous. Buddy is incredibly naive wandering around New York and talking to random strangers, having no clue how things work in the human world and being completely oblivious to the fact that many people, even around Christmas time, are unhappy cynics. Buddy is like a small boy trapped inside an adult man's body, and he shamelessly performs childish, playful acts such as running around in circles with a revolving door. Ferrell puts necessary, child-like enthusiasm into the role of Buddy, and he does so as well, if not better, than any other actor who could've been a possible fit for the role.
- The humor in Elf is a bit of a mixed bag. Buddy provides a countless number of funny, quotable lines, but there are also a series of moments that don't quite hit the funny bone. Buddy drinks an entire 1.25 liter thing of Coke in one chug, following it up with a burp that lasts about 10-15 seconds. Burping is like farting out of your mouth, and farting is just oh so hilarious, so...everybody laughs! I'd say the humor is about 70-80 percent good and 20-30 percent iffy. All of the humor in the film stems from the actions and decisions of Buddy and how those actions and decisions are perceived by those around him.
Will Ferrell has had some atrocious misfires over the course of his career, but I think he more than makes up for his comedic shortcomings with films like Elf, with Buddy being in a fierce competition with Ron Burgundy, Lord Business, and Ricky Bobby for the title of Will Ferrell's most definitive and acclaimed role. For Christmas movies that put a big smile on your face through sharp humor and irresistible charm, you can't do much better than Elf. People of all ages will love it, and don't be surprised if you find yourself using at least one of Buddy's many memorable lines around the holidays.
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