The “Elf” is a good natured holiday comedy. The story is about a human that has been raised by Santa’s elves at the North Pole and as he gets older he figures out that he’s very different from the other elves. Years earlier Santa (Ed Asner) was delivering at an orphanage and a human baby accidentally crawled into his sack and was taken back to the North Pole where he was raised by Papa Elf (Bob Newhart).
He is called Buddy (Will Ferrell) and he grows to six foot three and one day he is told the truth about his situation and told by Santa who his real father is. Buddy travels to New York City to meet his father and he heads to the Empire State Building where he works.
This film is directed by Jon Favreau who has made his mark as a director of low budget films like “Made” and also as a character actor, but this is his first effort at directing a mainstream Hollywood movie. He does a commendable job and as we watched this film we kept having the feeling that he purposely made the most commercial film that he could. It looks as though he wanted to make a crowd pleasing film that will ultimately be playing on some cable channel for the rest of our lives. Even the script was carefully written to insure that when this plays on television there will be nothing to edit out.
The closest thing to a bad word is uttered by Caan when he says “Hell” once towards the end of the film. This is a fun film that does have undeniable charm and its heart is definitely in the right place. It’s sentimental and corny but that’s part of the appeal. The script doesn’t try too hard and the energy and flow of the film keeps at a constant pace, it doesn’t try to go over the top which is refreshing.
William Ferrell is a natural performer and his dopey wide eyed expressions never grows old. This film must be doing something right because James Caan is believable as a caring husband and father. Very old fashioned story that never raises itself above lightweight status is nonetheless funny and charming.