Of the things to predict in this modern age of cinema, it probably wasn’t thought that Will Ferrell, James Caan and Jon Favreau would team up to make one of the most enjoyable Christmas comedies out there. Elf is a very funny film that manages to combine brains, heart and a sharp sense of humor to make a terrific fish-out-of-water story that serves the holiday season quite well. Given the many Christmas-themed comedies that almost come as a requirement on a yearly basis to mixed results, it is always great to find one that truly stands out for a number of reasons.
The story concerns an orphaned human who was raised by elves, after having accidentally stowed away in Santa Claus’ sack. Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) adopts the boy and names him buddy. As an adult (played by Ferrell), Buddy is told he is really from New York City, which prompts him to leave the North Pole and find his real parents. While his birth mother has passed on, his father is a grumpy children’s book publisher (Caan). Buddy attempts to incorporate himself into his dad’s life, but the push to be a part of the real world and the basic differences in elf and human culture lead to many different types of hilarity unfolding. Fortunately Buddy is always very high-spirited.
Elf features a prologue that does a fine job of paying tribute to the old Rankin/Bass productions, before doing well to shift gears to the real world. That doesn’t reduce the fantastical nature of this story though, which is due to Ferrell’s spirited performance as Buddy. This is a great embodiment of the physical humor and wonderful line delivery that Ferrell has proven to have a knack for, even in a more kid-friendly environment. The enthusiasm Ferrell invests in every line allows for a cheeriness that works for the film’s silliest moments, as well as some of the more sarcastic or darker humor that pops in.
That’s the real joy – the film has fun messing with the level of cynicism that can come with the holidays. While Elf succumbs to a clichéd third act involving the spirit of Christmas and a chase sequence involving Santa’s sleigh and police horses, it knows a lot of the tropes it is playing with and attacks them with glee. That allows for some madcap moments and the genuine levels of sweetness to really play well for people of all ages.
Not hurting at all is the fantastic supporting cast made up of great actors and good comedic talent. Zooey Deschanel, Mary Steenburgen, Ed Asner, Kyle Gass, Faizon Love, Amy Sedaris, Andy Richter, Michael Lerner, and even Peter Dinklage all show up to help make this a very enjoyable comedy. None of them try to overtake the show. Instead, we get people who are invested enough to nail their throwaway lines, which is always what makes for some of the memorable little moments that people hold onto, leading to films like Elf to become Christmas favorites.
Chances are you have seen Elf. Ideally you’re already a big fan, if not though, this would be a good time to give it a revisit. The film is a whole lot of fun and fitting for all audiences. It features a wonderful Ferrell performance and has all the energy it needs to provide a good feeling for all throughout.
Here’s a strong Blu-ray presentation that manages to capture the film’s interesting look. As mentioned before, Elf opens with a fantastical world, before diving into New York City. The AVC-encoded disc does proper justice in the North Pole, given all the sets and uses of color. Moving to New York means getting a dirtier film, as there some noise and grain that feel like noticeable flaws, as opposed to a really clear Blu-ray properly representing the film. It is also worth noting the heavy amount of DNR. That said, there is a level of clarity present in places such as the shops Buddy works in and the homes of the characters. Black levels are sharp enough. It’s not the prettiest picture, but it’s fine for an earlier Blu-ray transfer.
Elf features a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack, which is pretty impressive. There is plenty of clarity in the dialogue and it does not distract from the other sound effects, music and ambient noise that also features throughout the film. There is a strong balance in the surround, as the front and rear channels get their use. The LFE channel gets its moments to shine as well, given some soundtrack cues and many of the moments in the third act. It’s a good track overall, especially for a film smaller in scope than other major productions.
Elf is pretty packed with extra features. Even though they are all presented in standard definition here, it’s enough to make for a worthwhile look behind the scenes.
- Audio Commentary with Director Jon Favreau
- Audio Commentary with Will Ferrell
- Production Featurettes – A look at the making of the film, divided into several parts.
- Film School for Kids Featurette – A behind-the-scenes doc that focuses on a group of kids and how they deal with celebrating the holiday.
- Deleted/Alternate Scenes
- Trivia Track
- Focus Points – An interactive that allows for brief featurette clips, while watching the film.
- Theatrical Trailer
- DVD Copy of the Film
THE BOTTOM LINE
Elf is a great comedy and one that is worth putting on during the Christmas season. Will Ferrell leads a terrific cast and the film’s story and style is certainly unique in a way that is both hilarious and inspiring. The Blu-ray is good enough. The video transfer is decent enough to show some benefits of an HD presentation, while the audio is a bit more worthwhile. Fortunately there are plenty of extras to dig into. Enjoy this newer Christmas classic.