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Ferrell shines in delightful, witty film

Annie Rohrs | Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Elf, directed by Jon Favreau, excels as both a comedy and a holiday film. It is fun and charming the whole way through, and the humor, brought mainly to the movie by Will Ferrell, can be appreciated by anyone, regardless of age.

Ferrell plays Buddy, a human who accidentally ends up in Santa’s bag as a baby and is subsequently raised in the North Pole as an elf. Bob Newhart endearingly plays Buddy’s elf father, Papa Elf, a kind and loving dad who seeks to protect Buddy from the truth as Buddy begins to realize he doesn’t fit in with the rest of the elves.

The movie begins to really take off when Buddy decides to journey to New York City to seek out his father Walter, played by James Caan, who isn’t aware that Buddy even exists, as Buddy’s mother is a now-deceased old flame of Walter’s.

Walter is totally absorbed in his career at the expense of his family life, and Buddy is shocked to hear that Walter is on Santa’s Naughty List, but he doesn’t let that deflate his hopes that his dad will want to hold hands and snuggle with him. While Walter is extremely wary at first about Buddy and his claim of Walter’s paternity, his wife and son warm up to Buddy’s sugar-induced giddiness and bubbling holiday cheer right away.

Mary Steenburgen plays Walter’s wife Emily, a gentle and loving woman who is more than willing to open her home to a grown man wearing a ridiculous green and yellow elf suit.

Buddy is bent and determined to make his way into his dad’s heart, and in the process he gets himself involved in various adventures in the city, some of the funniest of which occur in a department store where he, appalled at the audacity of the store to masquerade an imposter Santa Claus, reveals “Santa” to be a fake who sits “on a throne of lies!” He also manages to find love. Zooey Deschanel plays Jovie, Buddy’s love interest who remains undeterred by his quirky behavior and child-like innocence.

The movie achieves every goal it shoots for. The actors are all perfect for their roles and the humorous subplots keep the message of holiday cheer from being too heavy-handed. Ferrell’s acting and comedic genius shine through in his very one-sided, simpleton role, in which he is totally endearing and believable.

Buddy has an unfortunate run-in with a midget he mistakes for an elf, but he manages to make friends everywhere he goes just because of his undisguised love for everyone he meets.

The subplots all flow together seamlessly and the movie is fast-paced enough to keep up with Buddy’s energetic personality and burning drive to spread cheer through Christmas cookies, paper snowflake cut-outs, hugs and maple syrup.

Ultimately, Buddy has to salvage Christmas from the cynicism of the world, not just the cynicism of his dad. The loose ends all come together in the end, and Buddy has the audience rooting for him to pull through and save Christmas in this humorous and delightful movie.

Contact Annie Rohrs at arohrs@nd.edu