Some films reveal their greatness on impact, others over time. When Elf was released back in 2003, it was a big hit, well-reviewed by critics, and I certainly enjoyed it. I had no idea, however, that I would be watching it every year, for fifteen years straight. Naturally, I included it in my, now, time-crunched quest to watch 25 Christmas movies before the big day. Elf comes in at number 9. Oy vey! I have a long ways to go, and very little time left. I still believe in myself. I can do it.
Elf was SNL alum, Will Ferrell’s first great star vehicle. He plays Buddy, an orphan human, adopted as a baby and raised by Papa Elf (inspired casting in Bob Newhart), growing up among Santa’s little helpers in the North Pole. As he becomes older, he finds it hard to fit in, and, eventually Papa Elf tells him the truth: he’s a human. His mother is dead, but his father’s alive, and lives in New York. Buddy sets out from the North Pole, and heads to New York to meet his dad, whom he learns made Santa’s naughty list and is working as a children’s book publisher. The film then becomes a holly jolly fish-out-of-water tale. Buddy, with his intense cheer, comes across to New Yorkers, as delusional. The first part of Buddy’s arrival in New York contain the film’s best scenes. Buddy’s able to find his dad (played by James Caan) in his big office, but thrown out almost immediately. Buddy begins a job working in a department store under the purview of the unfortunately named Wanda (played hilariously by Faizon Love). There he meets pretty coworker, Jovie (Deschanel), before he’s ultimately able to reconnect with his father. I especially love this section of Elf.
Elf endures as a classic because it’s funny, and it’s a sincere Christmas movie. The casting is perfect for every role; from Will Ferrell to Peter Dinklage to Faizon Love and Newhart whom I already mentioned. I look forward to watching it again next Christmas.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-