It’s not easy to create new Christmas movies, to be just as beloved as classics such as It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, etc. These are so beloved and if we don’t already own them on DVD, we search for them on the TV dial every December. Yet somehow, Will Ferrell has managed to create a Christmas film that gives us everything we look for in the genre and is on its way to becoming a classic and joining ranks with the others.
Buddy (Ferrell) was raised by elves, though biologically with his height, is definitely not an elf. He’s never told this until he’s an adult, and he leaves the North Pole to find his biological father, Walter (James Caan), who works as a children’s book publisher. Some of the simplest comedy can be the best comedy here, with Santa Clause being played by Ed Asner, and Buddy’s adoptive father being Bob Newhart. The site gag of Ferrell sitting on Newhart’s lap is stuff comedies are made of.
Landing in New York, Buddy finds Walter, only to have the man not listen to him and have him thrown out. The security guard mistakes his elf outfit for a costume and tells him he belongs at Gimbel’s department store. There he’s mistaken for an employee and gets stuck in the store overnight. He meets an employee, Jovie (Zooey Deschanel), who becomes his love interest as they bond over Christmas tunes.
Buddy thinks he’ll be seeing the real Santa in the store and is upset to find it’s not his friend Santa from back home. A fight breaks out and Buddy is arrested leaving Walter to have to bail him out. He gets a paternity test and finds out Buddy really is his son, and takes him home to meet his wife and son (Mary Steenburgen and Daniel Tay).
The naiveté of Buddy creates both the humor and the heart of the film. Buddy, having been raised by elves, just wants to play all day, really irritating Walter. He takes his newfound son to work with him, but Buddy still just wants to play, and insults a bigwig at the publishing company. He mistakes the small man for an elf. Walter is furious and sends him to work in the mailroom, where he thinks a coworker’s whiskey is his much beloved syrup and downs it, as the two have quite a party in the mailroom.
Walter becomes incensed with Buddy and tells him to leave, which he does, dejectedly, thereby creating the heart in the film. Buddy seems to be the only one around who sees Christmas for what it is and who doesn’t see it commercially at all. He becomes the only source of Christmas, and it eventually is left to him, his lady love, and his family, to help save the day.
Though it’s easy to take Elf at face value for just a Will Ferrell comedy, but it’s really so much more. It includes all those things we love most in the more traditional holiday classics. Buddy shows everyone that while it’s easy to take him as a joke, he’s just a simple guy who believes and loves deeply, although it’s mistaken for naiveté. Instead of being someone like George Bailey who needs someone to show him who great life is, he shows all the others.
For this Christmas, Elf is being re-released and is being shipped in a gift tin along with a sampler of the CD soundtrack, a holiday stocking, gift tags, and a magnetic picture frame. Special features on the DVD include deleted scenes, movie trivia, featurettes, games, a read-along, and karaoke. Elf Ultimate Collector’s Edition is available now in stores.
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