Elf (Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray)

Raised as an oversized elf, Buddy travels from the North Pole to New York City to meet his biological father, Walter Hobbs, who doesn't know he exists and is in desperate need of some Christmas spirit.

November 28, 2022 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

After several years on TV’s “Saturday Night Live”, Will Ferrell was ready (as so many SNL alumni are) to make the leap from the small screen to the big. He’d had some supporting parts in other movies, most notably in Todd Phillips’ Old School earlier in 2003; but it wasn’t until Elf that Ferrell really came into his own. Ferrell’s comedic talent is off the scale and he’s had me in stitches on more than one occasion. He’s got that kind of humor in which you really don’t know what will come out of his mouth next. Teaming up with director Jon Favreau was a smart move as well. Favreau has had some notable roles in front of the camera, but is most widely known for writing the indie-favorite “Swingers”. Ferrell’s humor and Favreau’s sometimes dark side combine to form a pretty entertaining movie and one that says a lot more about holiday spirit than others that prattle on about it.

We meet Buddy (Will Ferrell) when he’s an infant. Santa (Ed Asner) is on his rounds and Buddy mistakenly crawls in Santa’s bag. He’s then brought up in the North Pole where it’s evident that he’s not just “big for his age”, he’s human where everyone else is an elf. It’s clear that Buddy isn’t cut out for work as an elf and so he decides to head to New York City to seek out his father (James Caan). Walter (Caan) is the publisher of children’s books who skimps on the cost figuring the kids won’t notice if a few pages are missing. His wife (Mary Steenburgen) welcomes Buddy with open arms and their son (Daniel Tay) becomes Buddy’s reluctant friend. Of course, there is a crisis as Walter is under pressure to deliver a “hit” children’s book or else he’s out of a job. All this time, Buddy has been working at a department store (as an elf, no less) and manages to inject the Christmas spirit into a cynical young girl (Zooey Deschanel). Can Buddy save Christmas, become reunited with his estranged father and live happily ever after?

I have to admit that “Elf” impressed me a bit. I wasn’t too sure what to think when it was released last year, though it became a financial success of the season. Elf contains enough laughs to warrant repeat viewings and it’s suitable for children and adults. The casting is right on the money and even the implied messages are wholesome without being overly corny. For those looking for a new holiday movie and are tired of seeing It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story and Miracle on 34th Street year after year, Elf might be a fresh holiday movie that’s sure to delight.

Video: How does it look?

The film isn’t that old, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t benefit from the new 4K image. I’ve never really had an issue with the way this movie looked on disc, though I’ve gone back and have watched some movies on Blu-ray that, at the time, I felt looked great and seeing them in 4K really makes me rethink my entire life. OK, maybe not that, but you get the idea. There are two major benefits to this new image: First, we get a new, improved transfer and second we finally get the film in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Previous DVD’s and Blu-ray’s have had this in a 1.78:1 image. It’s not life-changing, but it’s good to see (pardon the pun) nonetheless. Speaking to this image, it hits the nail on the head. Increased detail, improved color and HDR adds that extra layer of “goodness” that we all love so much. By now we know what to expect from a “new” movie that gets the 4K upgrade. This one delivers.

Audio: How does it sound?

We’ve had this film in a Dolby Digital sound mix (DVD), a TrueHD (Blu-ray) and now a DTS HD Master Audio mix. This one has a few moments, but by and large it’s the same track (albeit a bit more robust). This is a pretty good-sounding mix for a comedy, but not much more. Surrounds do kick in at the appropriate times, but the action is mainly limited to the front stage. Dialogue is clear, warm and natural with no hint of any distortion. While there are certainly movies out there that will rock the house more than Elf, this isn’t intended as such. It’s a good, solid mix that’s sure to satisfy viewers.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Disc One (4K)

  • Audio Commentary – Director Jon Favreau’s is a little better, offering up some tidbits on the shoot and such. There’s very little down time for both tracks, which makes since as it’s a rather short movie.
  • Audio Commentary – Will Ferrell’s track is about average, I suppose I expected him to be cracking jokes the whole way through. He doesn’t.

Disc Two (Blu-ray)

  • Audio Commentary – See above.
  • Audio Commentary – See above.
  • Documentaries – “Documentaries” is pushing it, below are 9 vignettes ranging in length from a few minutes to 20 minutes (“Film School for Kids”).
    • Tag Along with Will Ferrell
    • Film School for Kids
    • How They Made the North Pole
    • Lights, Camera, Puffin!
    • That’s a Wrap…
    • Kids on Christmas
    • Deck the Halls
    • Santa Mania
    • Christmas in Tinseltown
  • Fact Track – That annoying “pop up” fact track can be played while watching the movie.
  • Focus Points – You can essentially watch the above features while watching the film. I don’t know why anyone would, though.
  • Elf Karaoke  – Three songs that can be played/watched with or without the words.
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Deleted/Alternate Scenes – Eight total, with an available commentary by Favreau.

The Bottom Line

Elf is a fine, funny and harmless movie that I’ve been reluctant to classify as a “modern holiday classic.” But…it is. Nearly two decades have passed since its initial release and its popularity continues to grow. Given that 2003 also gave us Love, Actually – is 2003 THE year for new holiday movies? The same supplements are directly ported over from the old Blu-ray, so the only draw here is the upgrade in picture quality which, admittedly, might be worth it.

Disc Scores