It’s been a busy Christmas for holiday-themed films. Bad Santa and Love Actually have proved popular, but the one which has garnered the most money and the most acclaim is Elf. Treading a fine line between family and adult comedy, Elf hits just the right note.
Will Ferrell stars as Buddy, a human accidentally raised by Elves. Having realised he’s ‘special’ at a late age, he travels to New York to find his father Walter, played by James Caan. Firstly believing he is certifiable but soon finding they are related, Walter is at a loss. Buddy also has the alarming news that Walter is on the ‘naughty’ list and so sets about to bring some Christmas cheer back into his life.
Elf does regurgitate many of the typical Christmas cliches (a snowy New York, a hard-nosed businessman learning the meaning of the season, one person trying to make everyone else believe) but with the emphasis on comedy, it comes up trumps. Will Ferrell, best known for his scene-stealing in Old School, delivers a fantastic comedic performance, displaying a pitch-perfect mix of vulnerability and charm which makes Buddy a believable hero.
James Cann is a good foil to Ferrell, while Zooey Deschanel provides another typically sarcastic performance, which will no doubt further her celebrity. The film is visually striking, especially when centred in the North Pole, looking more like a Tim Burton Christmas than anything else. New York at Christmas is the same as ever, with some of the department store scenes seeming familiar, although they’re still very funny.
Elf’s real strength lies in its humour. There are comic moments which would appeal to children and adults, a feat not entirely pulled off in the majority of family films. Okay so the end may be sugary but then it’s hard not to be within this genre. The common end-note of ‘see santa does exist’ will appeal to children while adults can just remember the funnier moments from before.
Will Ferrell has the ability to become a very successful and very rich comedy actor and the massive success of Elf should secure this. As Christmas films go, it’s hard to find them as satisfying and laugh out loud funny as this. Many critics have already suggested Elf will surely become a yuletide classic and it’s tempting to agree. Highly recommended.