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. With Ferrell’s acting career really taking off and the critical and commercial success of this movie, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see an “Elf 2” in the works…Highly recommended.
Video: How does it look?
Admittedly, the last time I sat down and watched “Elf” was when the standard DVD arrived about six years ago. To be sure, this Blu-ray does sport a nice-looking 1.85:1 VC-1 HD transfer, but I don’t really think it’s too much of an improvement over the standard DVD (and I even went and dug out my old DVD for a reference check). Colors are very strong, but the contrast seems a bit off in a few places. Black levels are on the mark and detail has been improved a bit as well. “Elf” doesn’t look bad by any means, but seeing as how this “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” is merely the same Blu-ray that was released a couple years ago, there weren’t any significant improvements in the transfer. It looks good, but somewhat lacks a “wow” factor for me.
Audio: How does it sound?
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track found on the DVD has been upgraded to a Dolby TrueHD (again, the same one that was on the previous Blu-ray) that 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?
Ok, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again â€“ every studio is guilty of “double dipping”, but this has to be one of the most shameless acts ever. I mean, Warner literally took the existing Blu-ray, gave it no new supplements, dropped it in a tin box and there you go. Ok, there is a 14″ elf stocking, a magnet, some collectable cards and the soundtrack to the movie. Still, even with a good discount you’re going to pay over $30 for this and, quite simply, it’s just not worth it. There aren’t any new supplements for the disc, either â€“ they’re all ported over from the two disc DVD from 2004. That said we have two audio commentaries, one with Director Jon Favreau and the other with star Will Ferrell. I’d have liked to have both of these edited into one track, but the commentaries are insightful and informative nonetheless. Ferrell’s track is about average, I suppose I expected him to be cracking jokes the whole way through. 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. Next up are some eight deleted scenes that can be played with or without commentary. These are mainly extended scenes that slowed down the process of the movie, though a funny one was included with some Hockey playing at the North Pole. The main feature is the “Making of…” documentary. This can be played as parts or as a whole (running nearly an hour). The first half focuses around Ferrell, how he was to play the role, etc. It then branches out to make up, editing and set design.
Moving along we find “Buddy’s Adventure”. This is made up of four games: “Snowball Fight,” “The Race For Mt. Icing,” “Elf in the City,” and “Fix Santa’s Sleigh.” Once you complete the games, the “Secret Elevator O’ Fun,” is unlocked. There’s also an interesting feature: Elf Karaoke (complete with three Christmas songs). A read-along storybook is included with optional narration as is the film’s theatrical trailer. There is a “Special Announcements” feature that contains a promo for The Dave Thomas Foundation among others. There is a wealth of DVD-ROM content as well including some printable activities for children, a photo gallery, the ability to make your own Christmas Book and a script-to-screen comparison among others. There’s really no reason not to rush out and pick up “Elf”. It’s an enjoyable movie with great picture and sound and enough supplements to keep you (and most importantly – the kids) busy for hours on end.