Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

"Another John Hughes wannabe cuddle bunny of a movie, as sharp as butter fudge." | Photo: © 2003 Warner Brothers. All Rights Reserved.

In 1988, before anyone had recognised the true range of his talent as an actor, Tom Hanks played a 12-year-old boy, who magically turns into a man overnight. It was called Big and in that syrupy netherworld of feelgood family comedy, it worked extremely well.

Elf is pretty much on the same track - big guy in baby clothes - with the added sugar rush of Santa's little helpers and the whole North Pole experience that didn't do Dudley Moore any favours when he played an elf in the film that never landed - Santa Claus (1985).

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Directed by Jon Favreau, who wrote Swingers, and starring, amongst other luminaries (Ed Asner in the Claus suit, James Caan as a workaholic non-dad, Mary Steenburgen cleaning up after), Bob Newhart, who used to make cutting edge satirical records in the days of vinyl LPs, you might expect a sprinkling of wit or a nudge in the direction of Jim Carrey in The Grinch. Not a hope! This is another John Hughes wannabe cuddle bunny of a movie, as sharp as butter fudge, with a performance from Saturday Night Live's Will Ferrell that owes nothing to Hanks.

Buddy is a human, who grew up at the North Pole, believing himself to be an elf, despite being three times as tall and four times as stupid. He is sent back to New York to find the dad (Caan) who doesn't even know he was born. That's a toughie, or should have been, but isn't, because difficult issues, such as paternity suits, or a grown man in an elf costume wanting to play with other people's children, are brushed under the carpet.

Essentially, this is a "I don't belong anywhere" Forrest Gump feelalike that has been given the Santa's Grotto treatment without a soupcon of imagination and a big hug for the mentally challenged. Don't despair, O ye of little understanding, there is always an angel in the crowd, capable of responding to the beat of your heart. In this case, her name is Jovie (Zooey Deschanel), the only person who behaves as if she's living in the real world, except if she was, she wouldn't go on dates with someone as intellectually deformed as Buddy.

The script is aimed at six-year-olds. Santa's sleigh is powered on Christmas spirit, for example, and if enough people stop believing, it will crash land, so let's hear it for the fat bloke in the red dressing gown, who can climb down chimneys without ever getting dirty.

Let's hear it for Buddy, before he walks into traffic, or discovers that parents let you down.

Reviewed on: 11 Dec 2003
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A human who grew up thinking he was an elf goes in search of his dad.
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Director: Jon Favreau

Writer: David Berenbaum

Starring: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart, Edward Asner, Mary Steenburgen, Zooey Deschanel, Daniel Tay, Faizon Love, Peter Dinklage, Amy Sedaris

Year: 2003

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


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