WWTW Rewind – ‘Elf’ (2003)

WWTW Rewind – ‘Elf’ (2003)

Will Ferrell stars in Elf

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.”)

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim LakelyNo Gravatar December 16, 2008 at 5:32 pm

Ahhhh. Elf. We’ve gone over this one before, Christian (though searched your archives and couldn’t find our previous discussion). But, like you, I consider this an all-time Christmas classic.

Funny you mention the third act. My wife LOVES this movie with one minor quibble — the Central Park thing. Can’t say I disagree, though it’s hardly weak enough to ruin the movie. I still get chills when I hear Deschanel sing in this movie. What a voice.

By the way, nice job (as usual) on Dennis Miller’s show the other day discussing the Golden Globe nominations and other breaking movie news.

cftotoNo Gravatar December 16, 2008 at 5:37 pm

Watched Elf last night again with Mrs. WWTW — it’s her favorite holiday film and arguably her fave film, period (Deuce Bigalow is her official no. 1). She beams like a child while watching it … like I do when I watch “Rudolph” and the other stop-motion classics.

The third act does falter, but at that point it’s hardly noteworthy. Buddy has charmed our stockings off already.

Rick HendersonNo Gravatar December 16, 2008 at 7:57 pm

Casting Leon Redbone as Leon the Stop-Motion Snowman was truly inspired as well. I like this movie.

Jim LakelyNo Gravatar December 17, 2008 at 7:50 am

Christian writes: “It’s classic fish out of water fare, but the awkward exchanges start adding up to something truly special.”

Well, yes. One must honor the three food groups: “Candy, candy corns … and syrup.”

Just one of countless examples of your review hitting home.

Jim LakelyNo Gravatar December 17, 2008 at 7:53 am

By the way …

“Smiling’s my favorite …”

… and NO! Work is NOT my favorite. Never will be. Screw that funny and appealing Macy’s Christmas Village Nazi.

ZackNo Gravatar December 3, 2010 at 2:46 pm

by the way it’s the 4 main food groups to Jim Lakely candy, candy corns, candy corn, and syrup.

ZackNo Gravatar December 3, 2010 at 2:47 pm

correct myself candy, candy canes, candy corn, syrup

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