Of all the things that Will Ferrell could do, and would do given his Saturday Night Live history, Elf seems like an unlikely choice. The film is about a man raised as an elf returning to the regular world to search for his biological father. Overall, the film does work nicely, mainly because of Ferrell (Old School, Boat Trip). He goes all out in his performance of Buddy, giving his character an unending sense of innocence and wonder. His Buddy smiles because he likes to, and always sees the good in everybody. It is a complete anachronism, and Ferrel plays the character straight, and on a nice change, it's rated PG. He went all-out in another direction in Old School, and it's nice seeing him branch out.

As a toddler, Buddy stowed away in Santa's (Edward Asner, Fair Play, The Animal) bag. At the North Pole, he was raised by Papa Elf (Bob Newhart, Legally Blonde 2, In & Out). He never realized he wasn't an elf, despite the fact that he was twice as tall as everybody else and nowhere as efficient. So he decided to seek out his father Walter Hobbs (James Caan, This Thing of Ours, City of Ghosts). Needless to say, Hobbs has no clue what to do with Buddy. Especially since Buddy still wears the yellow stockings and green elf suit. Hobbs' wife (Mary Steenburgen, Casa de Los Babys, Sunshine State) feels much more caring towards Buddy, wants Walter to take him in. Meanwhile, Buddy ends up in a department store where he is mistaken for an employee, and he falls for co-worker Jovie (Zooey Deshcanel, All The Real Girls, Manic).

As a Christmas movie, Elf feels old-fashioned, and this is a good thing. Director Jon Favreau (Made) and writer David Berenbaum have done a rare thing, and that is to make a movie the entire family can enjoy together. Thankfully, it is missing much of the idiotic toilet humor present in other so-called 'family' films. Because of Ferrel's energy and spirit, the zest for life translates off the screen and into the audience, turning an otherwise standard film into one that is enjoyable. The plot for Elf follows the typical fish-out-of-water story. Many of the jokes derive from Buddy never having seen the modern world and all of its conveniences, and trying to adjust to them. At the same time, Buddy needs to change everybody for the better. Jovie needs to open up, and Walter needs to pay more attention to his family, especially his son Michael (Daniel Tay, American Splendor).

Favreau's aspirations went even higher. There is a timeless quality to Elf, because he avoided putting in things to make it topical. This film could take place today. It could have taken place ten years ago. It could probably take place within the next decade. The special effects are also old-fashioned, using things like forced perspective instead of CGI (cost may also have been a factor). However, because of the pedestrian nature of the film; its story, jokes and resolution prevent it from being especially memorable. Oddly enough, it is Ferrell, who throws himself whole-heartedly into Buddy, that makes Elf a nice family treat.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 35 minutes, Rated PG for some mild rude humor and language.

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