Elf movie review, Jon Favreau, Will Ferrell, James Caan, Edward Asner, Zooey Deschanel, Faizon Love, Bob Newhart, Mary Steenburgen. Review by Rob Blackwelder ©SPLICEDwire

A scene from 'Elf'
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**1/2 stars
95 minutes | Rated: PG
WIDE: Friday, November 7, 2003
Co-written & directed by Jon Favreau

Starring Will Ferrell, James Caan, Edward Asner, Zooey Deschanel, Faizon Love, Bob Newhart, Mary Steenburgen, Peter Dinklage

Read our interview with NAME Interview with star Will Ferrell and director Jon Favreau


A keeper that will likely become an annual tradition.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 11.16.2004
A lot of thought was put into infusing this 2-disc "Infinifilm" edition with the wide-eyed spirit of the movie. The menus are designed work like a pop-up book, and there are lots of features for kids, including an adventure game, a read-along story about Buddy at the North Pole, and elf karaoke (yikes!).

The bonus features are plentiful: Besides two commentary tracks (Ferrell's is skippable, but Favreau's is a good listen, full of how-we-did-it tidbits, insights into his choices as director, and he's also having a great time watching the movie), there are several deleted/alternative scenes (w/ commentary) and an hour of behind-the-scenes goodies.

If you want to get to these features, most of them are a little hard to find - buried 2-3 levels deep in the menus under "Infinifilm" then "All Access Pass."

"Infinifilm" itself is a way to cue up snippets from these features while watching the movie - but that gets pretty obnoxious, with links to "click" with your remote popping up on top of every other scene. It's better to just watch the bonus features separately - especially since once you start watching with Infinifilm on, it's hard to turn off (try the "subtitles" button).

Trailer. Favreau introducing music clips from the movie and explaining his song choices. Pure filler featurettes on crazy Christmas decorators, crazy Santa events around LA, and interviews with kids about what they think of Santa and elves.

Well mastered on both counts

RATIO: 1.85:1 (16x9 enhanced)
DUBS: Spanish
SUBS: none


  • Christmas movies
  • Jon Favreau
  • Will Ferrell
  • James Caan
  • Zooey Deschanel
  • Faizon Love
  • Bob Newhart
  • Mary Steenburgen

  •  LINKS for this film
    Official site
    at movies.yahoo.com
    at Rotten Tomatoes
    at Internet Movie Database
    Watch the trailer (apple.com)
    As a chipper nitwit raised at the North Pole, annoying 'SNL' graduate scores with comedy of Christmas spirit

    By Rob Blackwelder

    After years of specializing in playing obnoxiously oblivious nitwits, "Saturday Night Live" alum Will Ferrell has finally hit upon a role perfectly tuned to his niche talent -- an obnoxiously oblivious nitwit who, after crawling into Santa's toy bag as a baby one Christmas, grew up at the North Pole thinking he's one of the toy-making elves.

    Buddy the elf's inherent kindheartedness and selfless good intentions are the saving-grace elements that Ferrell's performances have always been missing, and even though I've always had a hard time stomaching the guy, I have to admit, I loved him in "Elf."

    A rare Christmas comedy that is somehow both astringently droll and full of family-friendly holiday spirit, the story begins at the North Pole where the time has come for buddy's adoptive father (the understatedly ironic Bob Newhart, also the film's storytime-style narrator) to sit the clueless and comparatively colossal 36-year-old on his lap and explain why he's three feet taller than his peers and "the only baritone in the elf choir."

    Realizing he's been a "cotton-headed ninnie-muggins" (the apparent swear word draws a shocked gasp from the other elves), Buddy takes a little advice about the human world ("If you see gum on the street, don't pick it up! It's not free candy."), says goodbye to a snowman pal (a tongue-in-cheek homage to stop-motion animated TV Christmas specials) and sets out to find his real father -- a chintzy, contemptuous Manhattan children's books publisher (the amusingly derisive James Caan) who, much to Buddy's wide-eyed dismay, is on Santa's "naughty list."

    Ferrell's native ability to shut off any hint of self-awareness and play this character's enthusiastic naiveté with endearing authenticity helps "Elf" overcome some absurd plot devices as Buddy blunders through the Big Apple after inevitably being thrown out of his skeptical father's office. Then, naturally drawn to the Christmas section of a department store, he makes a scene by belligerently outing the Santa-suited guy hearing children's wish lists and gets arrested. (The real Santa is played by Ed Asner with an amusing touch of grandfatherly crustiness.)

    When Dad begrudgingly posts Buddy's bail and takes him home, more havoc ensues. ("We can't just throw him out in the snow," wife Mary Steenburgen insists after one disaster. "Why not?" says Caan. "He loves the snow.") But Buddy has a way of wearing down people's resistance, which also comes in handy back at the department store, where he returns to infuse a pretty but cynical Santa's helper (Zooey Deschanel) with some needed seasonal cheer.

    Directed by Jon Favreau (best known as the writer and star of "Swingers"), "Elf" strikes a nimble balance between its kid-conscious sensibilities and its snarky sense of humor, often finding common ground in Ferrell's willingness to do anything for a laugh. No matter how old you are, it's blissfully bewildering to watch him devour Buddy's breakfast: a bowl of leftover spaghetti, M&Ms, marshmallows, Pop Tarts, chocolate sauce and syrup.

    But the movie's seemingly obligatory subplot, about a shortage of Christmas spirit causing a power crisis onboard Santa's sleigh, never quite takes off -- even when the sleigh itself finally does. Favreau doesn't have a firm enough grip on that spirit to build it to a proper crescendo, leaving the film's contrived Santa-vs.-NYPD climax feeling flat as Buddy and the girl unconvincingly rally Caan and other sardonic New Yorkers into a sing-along.

    Even with this significant shortcoming, "Elf" may have the goods to become a perennial favorite. I'd watch it again, and after all, I'm the guy who can't stand Will Ferrell.


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