For the last 13 Christmases, I have purposely avoided this movie. I liked Will Ferrell in the Ben Stiller/Owen Wilson version of Starsky and Hutch and that's it. Something about the guy has just always rubbed me the wrong way. I thought I got weird looks when I said I've never watched a single Star Wars movie all the way through; that's nothing compared to how people reacted when I admitted to never seeing a single moment of Elf. I went into this review with gritted teeth and low expectations.
The premise is simple: While Santa is delivering gifts to the residents of an orphanage, a baby stows away in the bag of toys. The baby ends up at the North Pole, where Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) volunteers to raise him. Buddy (Will Ferrell) grows up making toys and apprenticing Papa as a sleigh mechanic. It only takes 30+ years for Buddy to realize he's much bigger than the elves. Papa tells Buddy the truth about being adopted. Buddy's birth father Walter (James Caan) lives in New York City and Buddy sets off to meet him.
Walter doesn't know what to make of Buddy at first. In fact, he has no idea that a child other than his preteen son Michael even exists. In college, Walter was involved with a fellow student named Susan; she became pregnant, didn't tell Walter, and gave their baby up for adoption.
For his part, Buddy has wacky misunderstandings about human culture and has a meet-cute with Jovie (Zooey Deschanel), a department store elf.
Is Elf as good as other Christmas family comedies such as Home Alone or Jingle All the Way? No. Is it worth seeing? Yes. It's pure fluff and Christmas magic all the way through. I especially enjoyed all the references to the 1964 classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in the opening scenes. Jovie and Buddy are a cute couple. It was interesting to see Sonny Corleone's adopted child on the other side of the adoption scenario.
While I smiled and laughed a lot, this scene is probably my favorite:
Merry Christmas to all!