ELF. 2003
Director: Jon Favreau

Director: Troy Miller

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Elf Buddy was a human child adopted by elves. He grew up at the North Pole, but could never entirely master making toys. He grew up to be a giant among tiny people, but like The Jerk (1979) never guessing that being white meant he wasn't a black kid, Elf (2003) is much to dense to have caught on that he can't possibly be an elf.

The day comes when Santa (Ed Asner) & his loving elfin foster father (Bob Newhart) let him return to the world of humans, on a quest to find is real father.

At the Pole, animals talk, magic is commonplace. Buddy never completely figures out that New York works by different rules of physics, since everything's magically new to him. Still dressed as a giant elf, he finds his dad Walter Hobbs (James Caan).

He gets access to the offices because Hobbs' secretary (Amy Sedaris) mistakes Buddy for a "Christmas gram." Since he loves to please, & catches on he's expected to sing some kind of message, he makes up a terribly inept song about loving his daddy. Soon he is tossed out of Hobbs' publishing firm as a loony.

Buddy is so sweetly naive & well meaing, with such little capacity to see bad in people, that he's really quite adorable despite that Will Ferrell is in the majority of his an unappealing screen presence. Nice guy apparently, but kind of revolting in movie comedies. He was born to play Buddy, however, whether or not that's unfortunate.

ElfHe gets a job (as an elf) In Gimble's Department Store (a joke in itself). A snotty but foxy young woman is also working as an elf. She's the perfect love-interest since, as Buddy sees it, "It's nice to meet another human who is into Elf culture."

Jovie (Zoey Deschanel) has a great singing voice, but she will not sing where anyone can hear her.

Buddy will cause her to get over shyness of public singing, despite that he soon loses his job after he assaults the department store Santa for being a fake Santa with a fake beard, wrestling & asserting, "You should be ashamed!" & "You don't smell like Santa, you smell like cheese & salami!"

But before he ends up a bum in the street, his dad takes an actual interest in him, gets an impossibly swift paternity test done, & takes the apparently simpleminded man home. He's instantly accepted by the wife (Mary Steenbergen) & develops a close relationship with his half-brother Michael (Daniel Tay). They all think he's insane since he believes he was raised by elves, but he's harmless & endearing.

In fact he doesn't seem at all elf-like. He seems mentally retarded, with the addition of Attention Deficit Disorder. When his dad puts him to work in the mail room at the publishing firm, he accidentally gets drunk & transforms the gloomy basement & the downcast employees into a happiness factory.

But when he meets Miles Finch (Peter Dinklage) who is a trouble-shooting top-selling children's book writer wined & dined by the firm, the fact that he's a dwarf gets Buddy all excited like a four year old who can't stop laughing & pointing. "Call me an elf once more!" yells the violently pissed-off Miles. "Angry elf!" observes Buddy.

ElfLosing the important author who storms out in high dudgeon, Hobbs has had it with Buddy's antics, & tells him to leave & never come back. Sad Buddy is on his own again, unaware regretful Hobbs is out looking for him.

[SPOILER ALERT!] Of course it'll all work out. In between various sight-gags & mishaps that will thrill children & not bore adults, we get a fairly obvious story of Buddy's friends & family discovering he really is a giant elf.

Plus he saves Hobbs from being an absent father, for the first time putting his family ahead of his job. Buddy conveys the Christmas spirit so wholeheartedly that it's inevitably happy ever after for everyone.

But it has a climactic special effects sequence too. Santa's jet-propelled sleigh with reindeer crashes in Central Park. The park's horse-riding officers are rather like the Four Horsement of the Apocalypse out to do something vaguely unpleasant if Santa get get aloft in time.

Buddy rushes to the rescue. The sleigh used to run on nothing but the world's Christmas spirit, but there's not enough of that any more, so Buddy has to fix the engine. Except, as things unfold, a conclusion requiring Jovie instigating a city-wide choral performance of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," & his dad finally believing, suddenly the sleigh only needs Christmas spirit after all to start buzzing around the city between skyscrapers [END SPOILER ALERT].

Okay yes it's an idiotic film. But irrestibly good of kind. If only that could be said for a lot of idiotic ideas for Christmas movies, to whit:

Jack FrostI have only myself to blame for watching Jack Frost (1998), as it wasn't like it was hard to predict it'd be amazing for nothing beyond stupidity. So I can't in all fairness ask that anyone involved be punished for wasting my time.

Michael Keaton plays Jack Frost, a husband & father who never quite grew up, too involved with his own self-centered interests to keep his promises to his son Charlie (Joseph Cross).

One year after he dies in a car accident, he discovers he has been reborn as a snowman his son made. The snowman springs to life as a thoroughly ridiculous FX character struggling in this new form to be, for the first time, a great dad.

The snowman will be completely convincing to small children. As for adults, well, if you're watching it at all surely you can pretend it looks better than is the case. Keaton is a fine actor while he's in the film, & surprisingly a fair blues singer; & then he lends the cartoony element a better vocal talent than was required. The moronic script is rendered as convincing as any actor could be expected to manage.

Jack FrostSight gags & puns aimed at children abound. The ability of the snowman to slim down or bulk up or change his shape is the primary source of humor.

The fatherly stuff is kept simple for kids who won't care there's no real drama in that. It's supposed to be heartwarming that he has this limited time, before the weather warms up & he melts, to make up for having been a mediocre dad in life.

The ending's a tearjerker, though I wonder if transforming Frosty the Snowman into some kid's father mightn't render the loss of such a companion all the more traumatizing to some kids. But if the kiddies can bare the end, they'll certainly like the rest, & probably wish their dad was as good a dad as this child's version of "good." I might even have enjoyed it myself if I'd watched it with children as I could enjoy the kids' response to stupid stuff that went way under my head.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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