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Elf Power

Will Ferrell Delivers Holiday Fun (Sorta) Way Before Anyone Was Asking For It

There's A Big Markdown On Former Saturday Night Live Cast Members: (from left) Will Ferrell is thrilled to be working with James Caan in Elf.

By Joe MacLeod | Posted

End-of-the-year America is an annoying and soulless place to live. It's discount closeout panic time all the way around, and Hollywood is no exception. First of all, it's what, early November? Who but the most anally retentive pre-emptive holiday gift buyer or commercially desperate retailer gives a flying red-nosed reindeer about "the holiday season" right now? We're still picking Halloween candy corn out of the crack of our sofa, and now suddenly we've got to line up and get jacked for "The Holidays" and the purchasing of the presents and the being of good cheer and the viewing of the Heartwarming Holiday Family Fare on the silver screen.

Such as Elf, for instance, a purportedly positive-spirits-inducing tale of Buddy, a real-live goofy human (Will Ferrell) raised among real-live and unceasingly cheerful elves at the North Pole. And yes, Virginia, for the purposes of this filmed attempted-holiday-classic entertainment, there really is a Santa Claus, and he's Ed Asner, but suspend your disbelief, wee one, because he's pretty good in the role of a 21st-century Santa man, if you will, outfitted with a rocket-powered sled to aid and abet the standard levitating bestiary, since it seems these days there just isn't as much of Ye Olde Xmas Spirit as there used to be, and as we all know (puke, puke) the Spirit of the Holiday Season is what makes St. Nick's sled straighten up and fly right, right boys and girls?

Which brings us back to the titular seasonally spirited elf of our tale, and yes (see above), he's not really an elf, but he was raised by one (underplayed by rumpled old Bob Newhart) when he was left in an orphanage due to the untimely demise of his mom and somehow ended up as cargo in the Kringle-man's sack. As far as his dad (James Cann, playing an emotionally unavailable big shot at a children's-book publishing house who cuts enough corners on the job to make the Naughty List), well, biological didn't bother, but only because he never knew he had this particular son to neglect. Until now, of course, when elf-Ferrell, in the ridiculous and amusing too-tight elf outfit, journeys to the Real World of pre-holiday New York City after it turns out the whole being-an-elf thing isn't up to much when you're three times as tall as everyone and everything at the North Pole, which director Jon Favreau (yeah--Swingers, Made, that Jon Favreau) gets a lot of laffs out of, with the outsized elf sitting on teeny-weeny elf furniture, teeny-weeny elf toilet, and even teeny weeny elf. Ouch.

So enter Gimbels, the big Christmasy department store a movie like this needs, and the smooth and creamy Jovie (Zooey Deschanel), working the Xmas department along with her own tragic little elf costume. Jingle bells, baby--our big-little elf is all grows up now and straining his tights with PG-rated love, along with the irrepressible holiday cheer, which Jovie, and so many others in this film, seem to lack. Sufferin' snowballs, what will happen? Will Santa be able to make his trip? Huh?

Favreau takes a shot at laying out a feel-good New York-y holiday classic, loads the cast with solid performers like Faizon Love and Amy Sedaris, and keeps us distracted enough along the way. OK, so it ain't no Miracle on 34th Street, or even A Christmas Story, but c'mon, you read this whole article, so it's gotta be almost Christmas by now, or at least seem like it, right?

You should probably leave the really little ones at home because, yeah, 80 percent of this movie is Will Ferrell in an elf costume, but there might not be enough of Buddy's inappropriate singing and gross-out trencherman candy-and-sweets eating to keep them engaged for long. The bigger little ones, however, might crack a smile at Will Ferrell in an elf costume, relate with Buddy's newfound little brother (American Splendor's Daniel Tay), and get sucked in to the climactic Santa's-sleigh chase scene, while the not-at-all little ones will appreciate the Rankin/Bass-teevee-holiday-special-style animated chunks and Will Ferrell in an elf costume. So sure, cheers, and Happy Holidays, if you believe in that stuff.

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