With the Christmas season just around the corner, kids and parents alike can look forward to enjoying, 'Elf', the year's most family friendly comedy success. Already a huge box office draw in the US, it has been hailed as a classic feel good joining the ranks of the timeless 'It's a wonderful life' and 'Miracle on 34 Street', and rightly so. The hilarious Will Ferrell, who was show stealer early this year in 'Old School', gets a chance to marvel us with a terrific performance that screams comic brilliance.
In a witty opening montage, we are shown how baby 'Buddy' (Farrell) first made it to the North Pole, when he unknowingly crawled into Santa's toy bag at the orphanage where he was left for adoption. Growing up from then onwards with his surrogate father, Papa Elf (Bob Newhart), Santa and the rest of the toy making elves, Buddy believes himself to be one of them, feeling right at home as a 6 foot plus giant, hovering above the others either at class or the toy factory.
His inability as a toy maker results in his being sent to another section for 'special' elves, where he works as a toy tester. There he overhears two others speaking about him not being an elf, but actually a human, which sets into motion his quest to travel back to New York in search of his biological father, Walter (James Caan). On his arrival, and many first brushes with society later, Buddy eventually meets him, but isn't accepted as openly as he would naively expect to. Not only is Walter a perfect Christmas grouch, more involved in work than in family, and not wanting any association with his long lost son, but he is also balancing a fledging publishing firm, in need of a breakthrough children's story.
Walter sticks around with Buddy because he is curious how Buddy knows about his past. Buddy misinterprets that for some form of fatherly association. Problems arise both at his new home, and at a department store, where he is mistaken for an employee in costume, when others refute his claim of being a real elf. This is where Farrell really gets to shine in a display of jovial innocence that is as convincing as it is infectious. Because he is so certain about himself, he is believable to those around him. He marvels others with his impeccable toy making abilities and gains the acceptance of his step brother by throwing snowballs like a professional pitcher to ward off school bullies. Along the way Buddy also meets and falls for the lovely, bright eyed and adorable Jovie (Zooey Deschanel), who works at the same department store.
Peter Dinklage, fresh from basking in the praise he received this year for his turn as a dwarf in 'The station agent' makes a rib cracking appearance in the movie's funniest segment, as a wealthy and successful celebrity writer. None, of it would work if not for the droll situations, that are as believable as they are funny. Its surprising how director Jon Favreau (known for more mature work such as 'Swingers' and 'Made') manages to erect an inspirational 'fish out of water' tale without treading on familiar ground. You know a comedy works when even the burp jokes make you laugh out. Elf only falters towards the very end, when it gets preachy about Christmas, and people's lack of faith in the annual event and ties it with Santa's quest to pilot his sleigh through New York with the help of Christmas songs. In the end though, this turns to be a positive and memorable look at the Christmas season with appropriate amounts of glee, making it a distinctive winner. Expect this one to be remembered for ages. - Faizan Rashid