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Elf (2003)

by on 2010/12/17

“First we’ll make snow angels for two hours, then we’ll go ice skating, then we’ll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse cookie dough as fast as we can, and then we’ll snuggle.”

* * * * *

I first saw Elf during its original theatrical release after a solid, agonizing day of battling mall-crazed, holiday-enraged throngs with a toddler in tow. Throbbing feet, bruised psyche and scorched credit card, I took refuge in a darkened theatre, chosing a film – any film.

My only desire was to sit in the dark for a while.

I got a lot more than that with Elf. This film was exactly, exactly, exactly what I needed that day, every belching, racoon-hugging, cotton-ball-eating moment of it.

Directed by Iron Man (2008) director Jon Favreau, Elf just might be my favourite holiday movie of all time. Since that afternoon at the movies, Elf’s been on my mandatory must-view list every holiday season. Will Ferrell, with whom I have an on-again, off-again affection for, stars as Buddy the Elf, a human raised by Santa’s elves at the North Pole.

When Buddy the baby escapes his orphanage crib, and stows away in Santa’s sack during Santa’s Christmas run, Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) volunteers to be Buddy’s adoptive dad and teach him the ways of Santa’s workshop. Buddy soon grows into a gigantic and awkward Will Ferrell-sized person, all 6-foot, 3 inches of him.

Unable to fit in (very literally) enormous Buddy accidentally overhears an elf water cooler conversation that reveals he’s actually (horrors) a human. Papa Elf comes clean and clears it with Santa (Ed Asner) so Buddy can make the journey to New York City to meet his crusty biological dad Walter (James Caan).

Buddy passes “through the seven levels of the Candy Cane Forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and then… walk(s) through the Lincoln Tunnel” on his way this his dad’s children’s book publishing office in the Empire State Building. In full elf attire, Buddy’s mistaken for a singing courier, and quickly dispatched in to meet Walter for the first time. In Walter’s office, Buddy sings an off-putting, poorly-constucted song about his biological parents, and is summarily thrown out by security guards.

The ensuing action sees Buddy recruited into service at the Gimbels department store Santa display where he meets the lovely Jovie (Zooey Deschanel) who is also dressed head to toe in elf gear. Immediately falling for Jovie as someone who shares his “affinity for elf culture,” Buddy sets about making over the stale Santa display, complete with a Mona Lisa drawn on an Etch-A-Sketch and elaborate Lego constructions, while at the same time sending strange (stalker) gifts to his estranged dad.

When Walter finally hauls Buddy in for a blood test, an absolutely hilarious doctor’s office scene featuring a cameo from Jon Favreau, Walter has no choice but to accept Buddy as his son. Walter takes Buddy home to meet his family, Walter’s wife Emily (Mary Steenburgen) and son Michael (Daniel Tay). Buddy soon fills the house with paper snowflakes, destroys the TV stand to make a hobby house, guzzles Coca-Cola and maple syrup, and otherwise tries the curmudgeonly Walter’s patience.

In a vain effort to keep Buddy from further destroying his home, Walter takes Buddy to work and sends him down to the bowels of the Empire State Building, into the dank, depressing mailroom to work. Forever the optimist, Buddy declares: It’s just like Santa’s workshop! Except it smells like mushrooms… and everyone looks like they want to hurt me.”


I’ll not go on, except to say if you haven’t seen this movie, what in the name of nutcrackers are you waiting for? There’s positively hilarious moments with uber-cool Station Agent (2003) star Peter Dinklage as big-shot children’s writer Miles Finch. There’s Conan O’Brien’s former sidekick Andy Richter as a sycophantic employee and writer Morris. There’s lovely musical moments with Zooey Deschanel.

Elf is what happens when you bring smart and sweet together in the very same film. You don’t see that happen very often.

Don’t be a cotton-headed ninny muggins, see Elf for the love of Christmas.

* * * * *


Rated PG

97 minutes

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