I believe I discovered this film when it was playing on television. I was blown away by Will Ferrell’s charm and the amount of Christmas cheer the film had to offer. It wasn’t until I acquired Elf on DVD to watch on Christmas Day that I found a newfound love for this film. I remember watching the special features to learn how this magical film came to life. I also recall watching Jon Favreau talking about all the behind-the-scenes secrets and easter eggs. It was an experience each time. I found it mesmerizing to show Christmas through the eyes of one elf who miraculously kept his whimsical spirit.
This 2003 holiday epic starts with an infant named Buddy, who is left at an orphanage. He accidentally crawls into Santa’s sleigh and ends up at the North Pole. The elves there adopt him as one of their own. When he grows up, he realizes he is human because he outgrows the other elves. I like how he seamlessly acclimates to elf traditions. It makes for some great humorous moments.
He finds out who his birth parents are and finds out his dad is on the naughty list. Buddy makes the journey to New York City in the hopes he can redeem his father, and in the process, he also learns he has a half-brother. Buddy is way out of his element. At the North Pole, he was surrounded by love, cheer, limited and sugary food options, wonder, hope, and joy. In the Big Apple, let’s say the city life offers many unique emotional experiences that put Buddy in for a rude awakening. Walter Hobbs, Buddy’s father, is not at all thrilled to see his long-lost son. Luckily, his new wife and their son are taken by him and graciously accept him. One of my favorite moments of the film is when Buddy defends his half-brother from bullies in the most amazing snowball fight put to film.
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He has a way with his food that is off the walls. You wonder how he managed to stay alive. Buddy’s social interactions are quite hilarious since he hasn’t had the time to be around people who haven’t been around the holiday spirit since birth 24/7. He seems like an innocent child who you want to hug. Imagine being a toddler, and your best friend outgrows you, but you remain friends for all time but worry how the world will accept him.
Fortunately, he finds a friend in Jovie, an employee at a department store. She finds him odd but, she grows to like him over time. The unexpected singing duet meet-cute is movie magic at its quirkiest. Buddy tries to find common ground with his father. But that proves even more difficult when he pulls off some amazing dance moves in the mailroom. What pushes the strained relationship to its breaking point is when Buddy insults Walter’s boss throwing off a potential book deal that could save his company.
Walter finds a way to save the company and decides to make things right with Buddy. Buddy has to gather enough Christmas spirit to save Santa, who happens to be in town. It is an amazing moment of unity and holiday warmth.
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I enjoyed this film because it captured my childlike heart. I love how Buddy sees the wonder and awe in everything like Curious George. It is nice to see how he can see the light in every situation where others do not. He makes an impact everywhere he goes. The snowball fights, taking his new friend Jovie out on the town, his various food frenzies, going to the doctor, and meeting “Santa” are ripe with so much comedy and mayhem. The amount of work that went into the stop motion sequences deserves praise. It is a love letter to the classic holiday specials that never gets old. Favreau created a classic so well received by critics and revered performed well at the box office, and it spawned cereal, an animated special, and a musical.
This film had such a positive impact on me; I was convinced Will Ferrell only did kid films at the time. I was shocked when he appeared in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. I later got over my shock when I learned of Ferrell’s comedic roots, and I wasn’t let down. All in all, it continues to be the gift that keeps giving.
It’s too bad we never see something like this again. If only there were a way to have an iconic character from another world come to our world, that character would have to handle many revelations about our crazy universe while changing the lives of those around them. I must add they have to wear a colorful outfit. I wonder if Amy Adams knows anything about that.