Urban Cinefile
"My parents just love to laugh, and my mum would laugh at ANYTHING, so I had the perfect audience."  -Cameron Diaz
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday December 3, 2019 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



Buddy (Will Ferrell) is a human who was mistakenly taken as a baby by Santa Claus (Edward Asner). Although raised by Santa’s Papa Elf (Bob Newhart), Buddy finds it difficult to fit in with the elf lifestyle. When some other elves let slip that he’s really a human, Papa Elf explains to him that he was put up for adoption before his adventure with Santa, and his father Walter Hobbs (James Caan) is living in New York City. Buddy sets out to find his dad; but when he arrives in New York, in elf clothing and talking about Santa, he’s treated like a nut and rejected by Walter. He finds sanctuary in a toy store, where he’s mistaken for a sales assistant. There he meets Jovie (Zooey Deschanel), and almost immediately falls for her. But he still needs to connect with Walter.

Review by David Edwards:
Comedian Will Ferrell and actor/director Jon Favreau are hardly the first people to spring to mind when considering Christmas movies. But with Elf, the unlikely pair has created a charming Yuletide confection that’s sure to prove a winner with kids and adults. The story is as old as the hills, as Buddy’s journey to find his real father leads to some cynical characters re-discovering the Christmas spirit. While the film certainly has its festive heart in the right place, it’s also very funny, with a slightly warped sense of humour. The sight of the lanky Ferrell waltzing down crowded New York streets dressed in green elf gear is hilarious, while the fish-out of-water scenario provides plenty of ammunition for writer David Berenbaum to work with He comes out with some punchy moments along the way. Towards the end, when sentiment starts to take over, the humour wanes somewhat; but what would a Christmas film be without a little sentiment?

While the film has plenty for older viewers, youngsters will be captivated by the improbable elfish antics. The opening scenes set up a magical land at the North Pole complete with cute animals, before Buddy makes his trek south. For parents concerned that the film might disabuse their offspring of their belief in Santa, have no fear. Despite sailing a little close to the wind on one occasion, the film proceeds on the explicit premise that St Nick is real. The production design is sparkling, and Greg Gardiner’s cinematography is spot on. And in a year dominated by special-effects laden blockbusters, who would have thought that that one of the most impressive special effects sequences would involve a jolly old man trying to get a magic sleigh off the ground.

Saturday Night Live alumnist Ferrell makes for a wonderfully engaging Buddy. As the wide-eyed, if rather dorky human turned elf, he gives a performance sure to win new fans – although hopefully they won’t be rushing out to see his last effort, Old School. James Caan plays the Scrooge-like Walter to a tee, while Edward Asner is the most convincing Santa since Edmund Gwenn in Miracle on 34th Street. Indie favourite Zooey Descahnel gets her chance in a more mainstream picture, and doesn’t let the chance go by, making Jovie a sweet and captivating love interest for Ferrell. Most will relate to its Christmas spirit, and there’s unlikely to be a dry eye in the house during the emotional climax. All that adds up to Elf being pretty close to being the perfect family movie these Christmas holidays.

Email this article

Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0



CAST: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Edward Asner, Patrick Baynham, Annie Brebner, Zooey Deschanel, Faizon Love, Bob Newhart, Mary Steenburgen

PRODUCER: Jon Berg, Todd Komarnicki, Shauna Weinberg

DIRECTOR: Jon Favreau

SCRIPT: David Berenbaum


EDITOR: Dan Lebental

MUSIC: John Debney


RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 27, 2003

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2019