A great Christmas movie can pass a simple test.
Does it make you feel like you’re six again, listening for any sound of Ol’ St. Nick’s sleigh on Christmas Eve?
Will Ferrell’s “Elf” does just that.
The film falls comfortably between children’s entertainment and a subversive adult romp, all thanks to Ferrell’s manic turn as Buddy the Elf.
It’s far from perfect, but even “A Christmas Story” isn’t immune from some fast-forward moments.
“Elf” must have been a slam-dunk pitch. We’ll get Ferrell to play an overgrown elf lumbering around Santa’s workshop. But the film’s visual gags, all razor sharp thanks to director Jon Favreau’s keen eye, only hint at the fun to follow.
It’s when Buddy walks – yes, walks – to Manhattan that “Elf” finds its big, beating heart. It’s classic fish out of water fare, but the awkward exchanges start adding up to something truly special.
All Buddy wants to do is reunite with his biological pappy (James Caan), but along the way he redecorates Gimbels, gets into a wicked snowball fight and even flirts with a bedraggled department store drone (the radiant Zooey Deschanel).
If for nothing else, her duet with Ferrell while she’s in the shower would let “Elf” stand out in any holiday season.
The sturdy support team includes a droll Bob Newhart, Artie Lange as a dime-store Santa and Peter Dinklage in a fiercely funny cameo as an author who gets cut down to size by Buddy’s line of questioning.
Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.
“Elf” loses some of its oomph in the final scenes set in Central Park, as Santa (Ed Asner) tries to escape a marauding band of horses.
DIdn’t this concept fall flat in the table readings?
But the film has already stockpiled enough Christmas cheer to forgive such clunky finishes.
Ferrell has been wallowing in his man-child shtick for years now, most recently in the crudely hilarious “Step Brothers.” But he’s never delivered his routine with such profound innocence as he does in “Elf.”
(Photo: Will Ferrell plays Buddy, the overgrown mischief maker in “Elf.”)