A Film Review By The Mike
Starring: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart
Directed By: Jon Favreau
Will Ferrell has done the impossible in Elf, creating a family comedy that one would have never expected to work. Having viewed Ferrell for years on Saturday Night Live and in his breakout earlier this year in Old School, I never fathomed his comedic skills working in this manner. It’s a wonderfully surprising turn that the whole family should enjoy.
Ferrell plays Buddy, an orphan that made his way into Santa’s bag on a fateful Christmas Eve. Not knowing what to do, it was decided by the big man up North that Buddy would be raised by an older Elf (Bob Newhart), and trained in the ways of the elf. After 30 years, it becomes extremely evident to all that Buddy is not an elf. When Papa Elf tells him of his real past, and shows him a picture of his father who’s in New York City, Buddy decides to travel across the globe to meet his father. But just before he leaves, Santa informs him of a problem – His father is on The Naughty List.
Buddy’s father is portrayed as a perfect scrooge by James Caan. It’s a thankless role, but it’s one that Caan works perfectly in, proving once again how versatile of an actor he has been over the past thirty years. The interactions between his hard-laced character and Ferrell’s ball of wide-eyed exuberance are hysterically managed, especially in a wonderful scene where Buddy visits a doctor.
The aforementioned doctor is played by Jon Favreau, who also directed the film. He deserves a lot of credit for creating a holiday film that’s perfectly paced and, with the exception of a short mid-film segment, hilarious and smart. He perfectly directs the activities around his star, who chews up every second of screentime he gets.
Buddy’s journey is filled with wonderful scenes. From his decoration of a department store in preparation for Santa’s arrival to his snowball fighting antics, Ferrell’s character moves from place to place with a perfectly giddy joy. We can easily see why his young coworker (Zooey Deschanel) would enjoy his company, as he’s a character that never stops smiling and bring joy to those around him who have open hearts.
I loved this movie. In a time when many films are marketed with the “feel-good” moniker, Elf is a rare case – a film that’s perfectly heart-warming and kind while at the same time being gut-bustingly funny. Everyone involved deserves praise for their creation, a family film that will finally please the whole family.