Elf Stands Tall

Once upon a not-so-silent Christmas Eve, a baby at an orphanage crawled into Santa’s sack and was whisked, undetected, back to the North Pole where he was raised by elves. Thirty years later it is evident to everyone except Buddy that a 6’3″ elf just ain’t gonna cut it. Reluctantly, Papa Elf has to tell Buddy that he is really a human. And so our story begins.
Let me just say I am a sucker for Christmas movies. I chuckled all the way through “Jingle All The Way.” “The Santa Clause” had my belly shaking like a bowl full of jelly. And Christmas just isn’t Christmas around the Parker household without Albert Finney playing “Scrooge” or Bing Crosby crooning “White Christmas.” Yeah, give me a feel-good Christmas movie and I am like a kid in a candy store. Maybe that’s why I love New Line Cinema’s new holiday chuckler, “Elf.”
Or it could be I love Elf because it is one of the few truly funny comedies I’ve seen in years. I’m not talkin’ giggle funny. I’m not even talkin’ laugh-out-loud funny. I’m talkin’ dying cockroach funny – the kind that makes you fall on the floor and kick your feet in the air funny; the kind that makes to have to see it again just to catch the lines you missed because you were laughing so hard the first time funny; the kind that has you reciting your favorite lines to each other the day after the show and you still laugh at them funny. Yeah, “Elf” is a real, honest to goodness comedy.
“Elf” pays loving homage to a plethora of Christmas classics. There are elements of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street.” But it is its almost reverential tip of the hat to the old Rankin-Bass stop-action animated TV specials like “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” that captured my whimsy from the get go. They even have the talking snowman that was originally voiced by Burl Ives.
Will Ferrell (Saturday Night Live) plays “Buddy” with an amazing degree of tenderness. He is a total innocent, caught up in a world of discovery – new sights, new sounds, new relationships. James Caan plays Buddy’s real father (the scene where Santa tells Buddy his real father is on the Naughty list is a scream!), and he is a consummate stinker, not evil, just self-absorbed. Ed Asner plays a more crusty Santa than you might imagine, and the inimitable Bob Newhart is at his deadpan best as Papa Elf. (His explanation of the only three jobs Elves are really qualified for is to die for).
“Elf” is a wonderfully sweet, marvelously funny, remarkably clean contemporary fable about faith, hope and love. I think I have just found my new favorite Christmas movie.
“Elf” is rated PG for a couple of mild expletives.


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