It is not often that a film can mix the satire of a particular genre or topic with a plot and story that actually work really well in said genre. For instance, let us say you want to make a fun of the high school sports genre of films, most films attempting this feet would spend way too much time making fun of the standard pitfalls or stereotypes and develop an overall movie that is lacking in terms of story. The story, in those cases become secondary to the ridiculousness of it all. The Christmas genre is usually no exception to this, unless we are discussing 2003’s Elf starring Will Ferrel.
Buddy (Will Ferrell) was accidentally transported to the North Pole as a toddler and raised to adulthood among Santa’s elves. Unable to shake the feeling that he doesn’t fit in, the adult Buddy travels to New York, in full elf uniform, in search of his real father. As it happens, this is Walter Hobbs (James Caan), a cynical businessman. After a DNA test proves this, Walter reluctantly attempts to start a relationship with the childlike Buddy with increasingly chaotic results.
And I know what you are thinking: “Will Ferrel? Yuck! He isn’t funny at all!” to which I am forced to reply…”False”. I am not going to spend too much time defending him because odds are, if you don’t find him funny by now, I am probably not going to convince you that he is. What I will say is that his acting and humor work extremely well in this movie. He has just the right amount of child-like wonder and glee to play an would-be elf gone to the Big City. There are so many one-liners that are pretty memorable and common now like, “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color!?” or “You smell like beef and cheese, you don’t smell like Santa!” His usually over-the-top acting nature fits Buddy the Elf so well that it comes of as charming and endearing rather than annoying, you cannot help but love him!
I’ve always been a big fan of Zooey Deschanel because I find her to be adorable. She’s a decent actress to boot, and she brings all of her adorableness to her role as Jovie, Buddy’s love interest in the film as well as longtime disenfranchised Christmas-goer. She plays both cynical and charming extremely well in this film and even though she is quite a bit younger than Ferrel, you hardly notice it due to Buddy’s childish nature. Also, does she have the worlds biggest eyes or am I crazy? Anyways, she sings a rendition of Baby It’s Cold Outside that I have always enjoyed hearing whenever I see the movie as well.
This film is also chalked full of ridiculous Christmas themes that we have all grown to love. Like a stop-motion version of Arctic animals, Buddy refers to some literally as ‘Arctic Puppets’ or Leon the Snowman looking eerily similar to Sam the Snowman from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Hell, the entire North Pole was designed to model a lot of what was found in that 1964 classic! There are also many Christmas-movie clichés like the idea of Santa or an elf coming into people’s lives to restore their Christmas spirit or an elf going off to find his place in the world– or even the sappy romantic stuff about finding someone to love on Christmas. It makes fun of all of these traits but also utilizes them to tell the story in such a fun way that you don’t hate it for the hypocrisy.
My only negative is that some of Ferrell’s reactions and jokes have lost their mojo on me after watching it so much since its 2003 debut. But hey, what comedy doesn’t lose some of its power 13 years later? I doubt that Home Alone or The Santa Clause is as funny as it was originally to me either. I think this film should be enjoyed with the family, especially if kids are present, the story isn’t overly feel-y or complex and it has tons of humor and charm and there is something for each and every family member to pick out and enjoy!
The design for Santa’s Workshop as well as the Elf uniforms come from the originalRudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) animated special. The Elf uniforms completely mirror the ones from the TV special. Most of the animals in the North Pole are also designed to look like the same form of stop motion animation used in Rudolph.
Will Ferrell caused several minor traffic accidents when walking through the Lincoln Tunnel in his costume because people were so surprised to see him wearing an elf outfit.
Will Ferrell turned down $29 million to be in Elf 2 in late 2013.
The scene where the fake Santa is chasing Buddy had to be done in one take because it was too hard to rebuild everything.
The outside of Gimbels is a digitally altered view of the 34th St. Macy’s, a reference toMiracle on 34th Street (1947). Gimbels was Macy’s main competition but it is now closed.