I want to start off by saying that this is not just my favourite Christmas film, it is my favourite film period!! So I might be biased with my review (so take heed)!
‘Elf’ (2003) is a film about a baby, living in an orphanage, who accidentally gets taken to the North Pole by Santa Claus when he slips into Santa’s bag trying to attain a Christmas present. Consequently, an elderly elf adopts the baby, names him Buddy (Will Ferrell) and takes care of him as if he is his own. Buddy grows up believing he is an elf, but one day overhears a couple of elfs saying that Buddy is in fact a human (which explains his drastic difference in size to them, as well as his perceived clumsiness), and so decides to travel to New York in order to find his biological father, a business man named Walter Hobbs (James Cann).
The reason I like this film so much is because it has every factor I like/hope to see in a film. Firstly, it is a Christmas film. For some reason, I love Christmas films. I do not necessarily love Christmas the day itself, but rather I love the build up and anticipation of it. I love the ‘magic’ of Christmas that is captured in Christmas songs and movies. The excitement, the nostalgia and the ‘spirit’ that these films and songs somehow magically capture is just beautiful/evokes emotions in me that make me love this time of year. ‘Elf’ nails this. It obviously features Santa (Edward Anser), a toy store (Gimbels), features a singing duet (between Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel), and stars an Elf (Will Ferell) – but it also features a Christmas message (‘the best way to spread holiday cheer is singing loud for all to hear’), and of course spreads the importance of family.
Secondly, I think the plot is genius. It’s a simple story, but is told from the perspective of a story within a story. The film is narrated by Papa Elf (Bob Newhart), who recounts Buddy’s story up until present day. I won’t give much away about this (for those who have not seen the film), but it is very cute how the plot is tied up. It is simple yet effective (and not too cheesy).
Thirdly, I like the animation in this film. The film mainly relies on forced perspective (to make it look like Will Ferrell is massive in comprison to the ‘elves’ he works with in the North Pole), but it also has stop motion, which works perfectly. The dynamic between real life and this style of animation works really well (which is mainly down to the sets used/the entire mis-en-scene of the film). The emergence of actors with animation is seemless.
Finally, the cast is strong, as is the directing, editing and script – which makes ‘Elf’ such a stand-out film for me. This film has some of my favourite actors involved, and they are all hilarous. I love Will Ferrell. Everything I have seen him in (apart from maybe ‘Bewitched’ (2005)) has been excellent. I really like comedy films, and his style of humour – this dry/slapstick style – is right up my street. I also like Zooey Deschanel (who plays a similar cute role in films like ‘Yes Man’ (2008) and ‘500 Days of Summer’ (2009)), James Cann (who played Sonny in ‘The Godfather’ trilogy), Peter Dinklage (who plays just as a commanding role as when he plays Tyrion in ‘Game of Thrones’), Mary Steenburgen (who features alongside her husband Ted Danson in one of my favourite American sitcoms ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’), and Jon Favreau (who also directs this) – to name but a few… All these actors execute the script brilliantly (which is written by David Berenbaum, and full of sublime one-liners), which is set against a feel-good score (composed by John Debney), that neatly ties up all the great aspects of this movie.
This is my favourite film. I can watch it repeatedly anytime of year. It is my favourite genre of film (a Christmas rom-com), has my favourite style of humour (a ridiculous hybrid on slap-stick) and is edited together brilliantly. The cast is strong, and the sets, animation and overall cinematography makes this film timeless/it has fared well!! I think it’s one of the best ‘modern’ Christmas films. I once did not get a job at a cinema for saying this was my favourite film (as most people there named art-house/blockbuster films as theirs) – but maintain that this is still my favourite. It’s so simple yet well crafted. I read somewhere that Will Ferrell turned down $29million to do a sequel , and rightly so. This is timeless and should be kept as it is! A must see, family feel-good Christmas film starring Will Ferrell dressed as an Elf – what more could you ask for?