An ‘Elf’ brings a bit of Christmas magic“Elf” is one of those surprisingly endearing movies, especially since the expectations are high for it to be an annoying film.
After all, the movie, directed by Jon Favreau, stars Will Ferrell as a human named Buddy who thinks he’s an elf, and dresses like one, too.
To help you visualize, Ferrell, who made a name for himself on Saturday Night Live, wears yellow tights, black shoes with toes that curl up, and a green coat trimmed with a white fur collar and white cuffs.
He likes to hug people and animals, and believes the four food groups are candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup.
Buddy’s mother never told his father she was having their baby (it being the era of free love). As an orphan infant, Buddy accidentally crawls into Santa’s (Edward Asner) sleigh and ends up at the North Pole.
He grows up a giant among elves. And when his adopted father, Papa Elf (Bob Newhart), finally breaks the truth to him, Buddy, at the age of 30, goes in search of his father, Walter Hobbs (James Caan), who, incidentally, is on Santa’s naughty list.
Buddy walks through the seven levels of the Candy Cane Forest, through the Sea of Swirly, Twirly Gum Drops, through the Lincoln Tunnel to the Empire State Building, where his father works.
Walter may be employed at a children’s publishing company, but he’s not exactly the most merry person. He’s married to Emily (Mary Steenburgen) and has a son, Michael (Daniel Tay), but he’s a workaholic who’s only interested in his career.
When a grown man, who towers over everyone even in Manhattan, shows up in an elf costume and sings him a song, Walter doesn’t exactly melt.
Despite being thrown out by the police, Buddy maintains his high spirits and wanders into a department store (apparently Macy’s but called Gimbels), where a fat, gruff manager (Faizon Love) mistakes him for an employee hired to be an elf in the make-believe North Pole.
There, Buddy spots the lovely but disenchanted Jovie (Zooey Deschanel). He also finds a marauding Santa Claus, to whom he whispers, “You sit on a throne of lies!”
The casting is right on. Only Steenburgen could accept a man like Buddy into her home, with a sweetness that’s believable. Jovie has that snotty, “I’m bored, and just who are you?” look nailed. Caan manages to be gruff, without effort.
Everyone plays straight to Ferrell, who gets to say lines like “Son of a nutcracker!” and “It’s just like Santa’s workshop, except it smells like mushrooms... and everyone looks like they wanna hurt me...”
Quite possibly the best lines he gets away with are politically incorrect, and involve a dwarf (Peter Dinklage).
Ferrell actually reins in his manic self. Some of his funny moments are obvious ― taking advertising fliers with a thoughtful thank you; going around and around in a revolving door, throwing up and going around again; hopping the white lines on the pedestrian crosswalk, waving at people flagging cabs. But he goes through them with a simple straightforwardness, so that “Elf” somehow works, like Christmas magic.
by Joe Yonghee
More in Features
[Shifting the Paradigm] With one epidemic under control, another is threatening Korean society
Kakao TV launches this month, takes on Netflix
[TURNING 20] In a sea of hate, change flourishes
Criticism of sex ed books for kids raises more questions than answers
When it comes to sex ed, this Danish author says just talk about it