When Buddy (Will Ferrell) happens upon the shocking truth that he is a human from NYC and not a Christmas elf after all, he sets off on a journey from the North Pole, through the seven levels of the Candy Cane Forest, past the sea of swirly twirly gum drops and finally through the Lincoln Tunnel to find his long-lost daddy (James Caan). And if he thought that his 6ft3in Chicago Bear frame made him somewhat of an outsider in Santa’s workshop of real, diminutive elves, his very yellow tights and groovy green outfit make him a figure of fun in the hip streets of New York. Coupled with zero levels of street wisdom, this is the premise of ‘Elf’.
Writer David Berenbaum makes some thoughtful choices in features of the modern world that would baffle an elf and director Jon Favreau adds some creative sparkle to make these the comedy of the piece, such as Buddy’s never-ending joy when spinning round revolving doors and incredulity at the streets of New York really being paved with candy (well, used gum … arguably the same thing). But ‘Dad’ - a successful publisher called Walter Hobbs - has long since lost his Christmas cheer and has little interest in the son he did not know he had, especially given his insistence that he is an adopted elf from the North Pole.
Throne of Lies
A seasonal favourite for many, ‘Elf’ is colourful, Christmassy and comic. Ferrell makes an ungainly elf but an awkward human too and his childlike reactions to everyday situations that are unfamiliar to an elf are perfectly timed and executed. His rage at realising that the store Santa is not ‘the real Santa’, is reflected in his passionate roar: ‘YOU SIT ON A THRONE OF LIES!’ Zooey Deschanel plays first love Jovie, who has a singing voice as sweet as her store elf outfit, both of which are responsible for Buddy’s instantaneous falling for her. Caan is suitably dismissive as the reluctant father who happens to be on the naughty list, but shows enough chinks in his Arctic armour of hostility for his audience to maintain hope that he might just start to warm to his unconventional first-born. Peter Dinklage of ‘Game Of Thrones’ fame whirls in and out with an entertaining cameo role as revered children’s author Miles Finch.
Animated Snowmen and Christmas Cheer
With most of the special effects reliant on stop motion, the North Polian scenes have an old-fashioned feel, with a dapper animated snowman who slides around in the absence of feet and an impressive narwhal who rises up out of the water as Buddy floats past on ice.
With some serious themes referenced, like adoption, the work/family balance and half-siblings, it has its more reflective moments, but with lines like ‘the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear’, ‘Elf’ has both feet firmly fixed in the Christmas genre.
More Christmassy than Christmas itself.