Combustible Celluloid
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With: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, Mary Steenburgen, Edward Asner, Bob Newhart, Jon Favreau, Peter Dinklage
Written by: David Berenbaum
Directed by: Jon Favreau
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild rude humor and language
Running Time: 95
Date: 10/09/2003

Elf (2003)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Toy Ride

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Will Ferrell is a rarity; he's one of today's most non-ironic comedians. In character, he basically plays a little girl with an open heart, but with absolutely no conception of any alternate meanings or implications. He's perfect here as Buddy, a human adopted by Santa Claus's elves and raised among them until he's too big to fit in their world. So he journeys to Manhattan to seek out his real father (James Caan), a self-absorbed children's book publisher.

Ferrell somehow charms everyone around him with his silly, sometimes stupid, yet always honest outbursts, such as answering his father's business phone: "Buddy the Elf! What's your favorite color?" Director Jon Favreau keeps the film sincere and adult for most of the running time, loading it up with nods to past Christmas films and TV shows. He also earns strong performances from the supporting cast, notably Zooey Deschanel, who sings a beautiful version of "Baby It's Cold Outside" (originally in the 1949 film Neptune's Daughter) and Ed Asner as a grumpy Santa. The Station Agent's Peter Dinklage also has a terrific cameo. Overall, Elf succeeds as a rare, good holiday film for all ages.

New Line correctly waited a year before releasing this fun holiday movie on DVD. Who would have wanted to see it in the middle of summer? They also took the time to make it into a two-disc special edition worth keeping with the other Christmas classics. The film is presented in the "Infinifilm" format, which allows viewers to branch off into bonus features while watching the film. This feature is available on both the widescreen and pan-and-scan versions. Other extras include plenty of kid-friendly activities and games (DVD-Rom features not available on Mac), plus commentary tracks by Ferrell and Favreau, deleted/alternate scenes, featurettes and more.

A Blu-Ray edition was released in 2008, but in 2010, Warner Home Video packaged two deluxe box sets, one with DVD and the other with Blu-Ray. The discs are unchanged as far as I can tell, but they are now packaged in handsome metal boxes, and come with a stocking, a refrigerator magnet, gift label stickers, and a CD soundtrack sampler. The Blu-Ray quality is a teensy bit on the soft side, but still gorgeous.

In 2018, Warner Home Video released "Buddy's Sing & Cheer Along Edition," which allows viewers to watch the movie with lots of little fun pop-ups, including quotes, lyrics, facts, recipes, and other stuff. The new disc comes with four short kid-friendly featurettes. It also includes the original DVD release on a bonus, second disc.

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