It’s the Christmas season again and time to review another classic Christmas comedy. Director Jon Favreau, best known for directing the “Iron Man” movies, brings us the 2003 motion picture simply titled “Elf”. It’s actually quite rare for a Christmas comedy from the 2000’s to stand the test of time as a holiday classic. Most of them like “Fred Claus” and “Eight Crazy Nights” just crash and burn. I’ll be honest, while I do like this movie, I certainly wouldn’t call it one of the best Christmas movies I’ve ever seen. There are some problems that way it down, but it still has its charms and it certainly has it's laughs.
The plot goes like this, one Christmas Eve a baby accidentally stows away in Santa’s bag, this baby was already an orphan, so one of Santa’s elf’s decides to take him in as a son and names him Body. As you’d expect, this guy doesn’t fit in with the other elves and longs to learn who his real family is. Once he discovers that his father is alive, and working in New York city, he sets out determined to meet him. But there’s a catch, his dad is on the knotty list, now nothing will stop Body from bringing holiday cheer and family togetherness to him. I like this premise a lot, but the way this story is told can feel very corny, and the jokes come off as hit or miss.
But before I get into all of that, let’s talk about the absolute best thing this movie has to offer, Will Ferrell as Body the elf. Holly smokes, how could you not love this guy, this was actually Will Ferrell’s very first movie after he left “Saturday Night Live” and it’s easily one of the best performances of his carrier. He is so innocent, so energetic, so adorably naive that you can’t help but smile whenever he’s on screen. Not only is the performance fun to watch but the character himself is just wonderful. He’s so full of Christmas spirit, and is so determined that everyone else is feeling the same amount of holiday cheer. His hyper active joy is so contagious, I can't get enough of the guy. Most of his jokes are side splitting, including a laugh out loud funny montage that involves him arriving in New York city for the first time. Unfortunately, I have to admit that some of his jokes are painful, most notably his jokes that involve un-healthy food.
Well, it’s a good thing that Will Ferrell is so much fun because the remaining characters aren’t that great. There dull, boring and most of the actors feel so tiered. You may argue that some of the characters like the Dad played by James Caan are supposed to be like that, but then there’s Santa and the elf’s who all come off as either grouchy or boring. Maybe it’s just me, but I just don’t care for any these supporting characters. Oh and there’s also a girl friend, that doesn't really amount to much more than an average girl friend.
Now being a Christmas movie, this film at least has plenty of genuine holiday charms. The opening credit scene get’s things started on a good note, with some colorful visuals, an upbeat musical score and some charming stop-motion animals that are very reminiscent of the classic Rankin Bass specials that we grew up with (and possibly suffered through). Even the North Pole is populated with stop motion animals, even a snow man character who I think comes from one of the Rankin Bass Christmas specials, but I don’t know for sure. There’s also a candy cane forest, which is a nice touch. Unfortunately, everything else about this portrayal of the North Pole sucks. The workshop and homes are all so dull and ugly, with no color, there’s no magic in the air and it has this slightly depressing overtone. Aside from the colorful uniforms worn by the elf’s, all you get to look at are ugly white walls and white furniture, thankfully this is only a small problem. There’s still plenty of other scenes that are worth looking forward to, including a wild snowball fight and a scene in which Buddy reveals that a shopping mall Santa isn’t the real Santa.
The only big problem I have with the movie is the ending, the whole third act of this film completely forgets about our lead elf and his family problems. Instead, we segway into this other story that involves Santa crashing in New York, he can’t fly the sleigh because no one believes in him, there’s a group of evil park rangers that want to see Santa dead and it’s up to our supporting characters to bring Christmas cheer to everyone else. Meanwhile, our main character, who we’ve been invested in and rooting for get’s very little to do in the climax. Plus his family problems, which have been the main focus of the whole movie get resolved so fast, it makes you wonder if there was any point to the whole thing.