Elf (VHS, 2004)

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Is He An Elf? Who Cares!

Nov 8, 2003
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:A couple of laughs and Zooey Deschanel is cute...

Cons:Jon Favreau must have been out to lunch...

The Bottom Line: I nominate this for the 2003 Holiday Movie Stinker award.


I wish I hadn't seen this movie. I wish that Roger Ebert hadn't given it 3 out of 4 stars and said, this is one of those rare Christmas comedies that has a heart, a brain and a wicked sense of humor, and it charms the socks right off the mantelpiece.

Did Roger and I see the same movie? I'm thinking no because I walked out of that theater feeling like I had wasted 95 minutes of my time. I went in thinking gee, this is gonna be a neat movie. In truth, it was one of the worst ones I've seen this year. sigh

Maybe my expectations were too high?

The Story
Thirty years ago, Buddy (Will Farrell) is placed in an orphanage, waiting for some nice family to adopt him. Christmas Eve, after some nun puts him to bed, Santa Claus (Ed Asner) drops in to deliver gifts. Buddy, seeing a teddy bear peaking out from his sack, crawls out of his crib and into Santa's bag. Santa doesn't know that he's taken Buddy back to the North Pole until he crawls out of the bag in the Elves Workshop.

What's a Santa to do? Hand him over to Papa Elf (Bob Newhart). Papa Elf does his best to raise little Buddy. The thing is, little Buddy isn't so little. Since he was a young boy, he's always towered over all of the other elves. After years of not fitting in, Papa Elf finally tells Buddy that he's adopted. His father Walter (James Caan) (who doesn't know about Buddy) lives in a magical place (New York) and his mother Susan (Jane Bradbury) died shortly after he was born.

Buddy decides to move to the magical city and reunite with his father. Walter, who is on the naughty list, is a ruthless publisher by day and an inattentive father to Michael (Daniel Tay) and husband to Emily (Mary Steenburgen) by night.

Buddy doesn't get the joyous reunion that he was expecting. For days, his father doesn't believe that he's his long, lost son. Walter, wanting to put this nonsense behind him, gets blood drawn from the both of them. His Dr. (Jon Favreau) confirms: It's a boy!

Not knowing what to do, he takes Buddy home to the family. His insistence on continuing his childish, elf behavior, rides on Walter's nerves. Can he accept his grown son? Especially in his current altered elf state?

In other news, Buddy finds his way to Gimballs department store where he fits right in with the other help dressed as Christmas personnel. That's where he meets THE girl - Jovie (Zooey Deschanel). He's immediately smitten with her but not because she has a hot body.

Does Buddy gain the acceptance he's been craving from both his father and Jovie? Believe me, you won't care. You'll be asking yourself, is there a way to leave this movie without offending my child and husband???

The Scoop
Where to begin?

I used to have great love for Mr. Jon Favreau. After all, he is just a week younger than me and a fellow Libra. I loved him in Love and Sex. I adored him in Swingers. Of course in both of those circumstances, he was the actor and not the director. And maybe that's the issue. Maybe the man is meant to be an actor and not a director because if he stays on the directing path, he's surely headed for a disasterous career ending...

So what did he do wrong? Let the list begin.

First, Jon must think that if he chops a story up into a bunch of little skits, inserting a ton of physical comedy, then a movie will magically rise from it all. Presto! It's magic! In the case of Elf, it's a mess. I kept on looking for a point to the story. The premise of it, written by David Berenbaum, was pretty blase to begin with. The only way Jon could have rescued it was to ensure that he had a capable set of actors along with a sentimental heart-beat running throughout, in order to keep the audience's attention.

Second, the only time he seemed to elicit a laugh from the audience was when he resorted to using material that 8/9 year old boys laugh at. Farting - that was fun (not). Eating gross things. Yep, that elicited a lot of laughter from the crowd (but mostly the under 10 group).

Second, could he have toned Will Farrell down a notch or two? Or perhaps, could he have had Will act something other than a one-note whiner of an elf? I don't think that I'll ever be able to watch SNL again for fear of a headache.

So let's talk about Will Farrell. If he was playing my kid - as either a child or a full grown adult - I think that I would have to smack him. The way he played the character of Buddy wasn't what I was expecting. Instead of the wide-eye innocence that you get with other not so clued in movie characters (think Tom Hanks in Big), what you get here is a one-track, annoying and irritating male. I kept on thinking - if Jon Faverau can't direct you, do something for yourself dude! But he didn't. And that's so sad, too bad for him. Looks like Jack Black won the cross-over award for the year.

Mary Steenburgen, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, and the rest of the actors were fine enough. It's not like there was any Oscar-stretching material that they were having to deal with. They were merely background scenery to the Will Farrell show.

And to top it all off, there was no memorable soundtrack. C'mon now. Christmas music is so easy and it's plentiful! I know that as the credits rolled, I saw songs by Ella Fitzgerald and Lena Horne but hey - I must have totally zoned those out.

Here's the bottom line. The movie had no heart. There was nothing present that made me care for the story or for any of the characters. No heart=the inability for me to overlook the mistakes made by Jon Favreau's poor directing.

The End
Elf is rated PG for some mild rude humor and language. Your 6-9 year old will probably laugh more than you. How pathetic is that?!


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