Elf (2003) - After inadvertently wreaking havoc on the elf community due to his ungainly size, a man raised as an elf at the North Pole is sent to the U.S. in search of his true identity.
This post is part of Nostalgiathon 2012, a blogathon created by Andy at Andy Watches Movies and Misty over at Cinema Schminema. The purpose of Nostalgiathon is to relive things from your childhood through the eyes of an adult. For more information on how to get involved, click here.
I have been meaning to write something for Andy & Misty’s project for a while now, and whilst I fulfilled that aim the other day with Home Alone, I am here today doing another piece. The main reason, aside from joining a great fun blogathon that is, would be my need to categorise each review I post here and have it as part of a project. Otherwise I’m going against what I set out to do. Lots of people review the more mainstream films, better than I ever could, and so I stick with my horror niche. I can branch out with the IMDB Top 250 films, but as much as I love Elf I could never justify a reason to review it. Until now. And with Andy giving me the green light to do a second post for their project, I can share my thoughts on this movie, and keep my OCD happy by classing this as part of a blogathon, therefore giving me a reason to do it. Anyway, enough rambling :)
Whilst Home Alone is a film I grew up watching, it is tied as my all time favourite Christmas movie with Elf. Although Elf is a relatively recent movie, I feel it qualifies for this project since the term nostalgia describes a sentimental longing for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations. Elf definitely ticks all those boxes.
I’ll kick off with a few details about the plot for those that have maybe given this one a miss. Elf is a 2003 comedy film directed by Jon Favreau and starring Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, and Zooey Deschanel. The story is about a young orphan who ends up a stow-away one Christmas when he slips out of his crib and slips into Santa’s big bag of toys. When Santa finds out he has a new guest he leaves baby duty up to one of the older elves (Bob Newhart) who never found love and thus never was able to have the children he wanted so badly. When Buddy (Ferrell) gets older though he soon realizes he’s not like the other elves and this sends him on a journey to find his real parents. This journey leads him to Walter (James Caan), his father, a man who lands on Santa’s ‘bad list’ year after year. As Buddy strives to gain his fathers love and affection he must also try and resurrect the Christmas Spirit that so many have lost.
The supporting cast here is all excellent. James Caan is a personal favourite anyway and I always love his work, but maybe with the funniest cameo comes from Game of Thrones star, Peter Dinklage. I will not give away what part this actor plays, but it is definitely not an elf. Do not call him an elf! But this movie is all about the performance of Will Ferrell. I know people don’t like him, but he makes this film work and elevates it above what it may well of ended up like without a lead so good.
Since I live in the UK, I was never really aware (well, I knew what it was, but not who was on it as such) of Saturday Night Live, and in particular Ferrell’s appearances on that. Whilst I had seen him in the Austin Powers & Zoolander movies in his various cameos, this was the first time I saw him as someone I really had to follow (film wise, not in a creepy way) and check out his work. Then along came Old School, Anchorman, Wedding Crashers etc and I became obsessed with his work and humour, and to me he is the funniest man working in Hollywood. Anchorman is quite easily the funniest film ever made in my opinion, and I always look forward to a new Will Ferrell flick. But I’m here to discuss Elf, so back I go. :)
Ferrell is superb here as Buddy. Sweet but hilarious, innocent with the odd filthy remark, I just laugh all the way through this. The jack-in-a-box scene still makes me tear up laughing, just a perfect moment.
These laugh out loud moments bring me onto why this film is such a nostalgic treat for me. I first saw Elf on a flight to New York in 2004, and my wife had to tell me to ‘stop laughing so loud, it’s embarrassing‘. I figured watching a movie about an elf wouldn’t be much fun, but I loved James Caan, and I love New York, so figured what the hell, I have 8 hours to kill, I may as well watch it. I am beyond grateful I did, as this movie opened my eyes and gave me the delights of Will Ferrell and my all time (tied #1) favourite Christmas movie.
I watch Elf religiously several times a year, but it is an essential watch at this time of year. I had an amazing holiday in New York, I always love going there, and seeing Elf reminds me of the amazing times I have had there. One day I will sit my unborn children down and show them the world of Buddy the elf. It is the perfect family film, but one that grown ups will find just as sweet and funny as kids do. I’m going to end with some trivia, as this isn’t really a traditional review so I may as well share a few of my favourite bits.
On the final day of shooting in New York, it was just the director, Will Ferrell, and a camera man driving around the city looking for locations to shoot. They would jump out and ask pedestrians if they would be willing to be extras for some quick cash while Ferrell paraded around acting like Buddy. Much of the montage when Buddy first arrives in New York was filmed then, such as when he is getting his shoes shined and jumping between traffic.
The elf Ming Ming, who appears briefly in the beginning of the film, is played by Peter Billingsley, who starred as Ralphie Parker in the classic holiday film A Christmas Story.
The sound effect used by the jack-in-the-box is the same sound effect used by the laughing hyenas at the Magic Kingdom at Disney World in Orlando, Fl.
Well, that will do for this ‘review‘. Not a standard one I agree, just my thoughts on an excellent movie, and one not to be dismissed by Ferrell haters. He is very different here, toned down but still so funny. My all time favourite Christmas move, and it’s nice to be able to show it some love on my site. Thanks for reading :)