Will Ferrell’s first vehicle (he shared the spotlight with Chris Kataan for A Night At The Roxbury) hit the big screen on the same weekend as the highly anticipated and woefully terrible Matrix Revolutions:
Despite competition from a terrible blockbuster, the audiences didn’t really overlap so Elf still got plenty of Christmas box office cheer ($31 million).
Directed by an incredibly fat Jon Favreau (his brief cameo showcases him as the world’s most obese pediatrician), Elf is a story about an orphan named Buddy (played with joyful innocence by Ferrell) who is raised by Santa and his elves after accidentally hitching a ride back to the north pole. But Buddy’s humanity, quite literally and physically, gets in the way of his elf duties so his adopted father, played by the always funny and always morose Bob Newhart, has to tell him the truth.
Unfortunately, just like Shaquille O’Neal’s biological father, Buddy’s “biological didn’t bother’“.
Buddy journeys to New York City to find his dad, played by Scrooge-like James Caan (not super original). After a blood test, Caan is forced to accept this newfound son and try to fit him into his life. Buddy has typical fish out of water antics as he tries to bring his oversized Christmas cheer to a city full of cheerless people. In particular, he focuses his energies on Zooey Deschanel, known for playing angst-ridden, disaffected young women.
(see The Good Girl for a great angry turn)
Why they bothered to throw in a love interest is a little confusing. Mayhaps they realized that the polar bear out of snow syndrome couldn’t carry the whole length of the movie and, in tried and true Hollywood fashion, they threw in a love interest. For the love of Santa, isn’t there anything else that can be used to fill movie time? Oh yeah, there’s also the whole “let’s show the world how to have Christmas spirit again!” plotline which has never, EVER been done before.
Despite the rote plot and themes, Ferrell’s wacky expressions, great physical comedy, and childlike dialogue produce constant gut laughs. It was an auspicious first starrer. It’s not A Christmas Story.
But then again, no Christmas comedy before or after has come close to that classic. But it’s still worth not bundling up the kids, streaming this joint and getting all jolly with it.
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