Elf Review

Innocent minds can take on all they want in Santa’s workshop, or at least, that is what Elf opens with. Straight to school with Buddy (Will Ferrell) who is trained up as a human set for work. Smashing toy hammers onto the backs of boards, crafting dolls and testing jack-in-the-box toys, it is what Christmas cheer is all about. Consumerism of the finest toys and traditions around in this Jon Favreau piece. It is a story of not fitting in, and the fight to find that spot in life where things feel natural and unique, yet comfortable and knowable. Elf is a decent feature, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

It is not just the bright colours and likeable characters that provide that, it is the humour and unnatural placing of a tall man in a small world. Obvious it may be to see that Buddy is not an elf, the message within this Favreau feature is that acceptance is an overwhelming feeling. To be given the gift of a place to fit in, that is what Elf seeks out. It does so while lighting the Christmas cheer of the season with effectiveness. There is a broad range for it. James Caan as the Ebeneezer Scrooge representative, the man who has lost his way a little over the years. Elf is a thoroughly positive film, and that is where the narrative must battle tremendously, figuring out where and when to deploy the positivity, the romance and the humour.

All are included well enough. Mary Steenburgen and Zooey Deschanel are strong supporting performers that play up more than their fair share of scenes with confidence and a key, light touch. Even Caan manages to wield the angry temperament that made his performance as Sonny Corleone with a tinge of irony and a festive cheer. It is never good to see yourself in the weak and unbridled aspects of the workaholic publisher. But Elf is a surprisingly strong, self-reflective feature. Its notes of hypnotic reflection are interesting and not a bit out of place with the commodification of the modern Christmas march. At its core is still the humour necessary for a Christmas classic, and that is just what Elf is. A classic for a generation who burst onto the scene at the turn of Y2K, a memorable feature so good that it’ll have provided many with their first trip to the cinema, and the tears that flowed when seeing the ominous stature of a comedian dressed as an elf will stick with them forever.

It does within Elf, a Christmas film that shares a delight for the festivities with its audience, but reminds viewers that these are tough and dispiriting times for some. That harsh reality is given its comeuppance, though, and the positivity that flows through Elf is founded on simple jokes and gags that are aided tremendously by the larger-than-life lead. Ferrell doesn’t receive enough credit for his abilities here, playing the fish out of water character so well. So well, in fact, that audiences can forgive him for the oddities, relate to him in the cold times and warm up to the idea that Christmas is a universal, effective way of bringing the family together with festive positivity.

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