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Directed by Jon Favreau.
Written by David Berenbaum.
Starring Will Ferrell, James Caan and Bob Newhart. 
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  11/14/03


Lost in the shuffle of news that “The Matrix Revolutions” made like $50 million last weekend was that “Elf”, the new comedy starring Will Ferrell, made over $30 million on its own.  This is huge, mostly because it means there will be a big raise for Ferrell in his future film efforts...but, the sad thing is that the movie just isn’t very funny.

Ferrell stars as Buddy, who as an orphan was accidentally picked up by Santa Clause (Ed Asner) during a gift drop 30 years ago and taken back to the North Pole.  Santa decides to keep the kid at the North Pole and an older elf (Bob Newhart) decides to raise Buddy like his very own son.  However, being “human”, Buddy is much bigger than the other elves that work at the North Pole toy manufacturing homes and never really fits in.  When he turns 30, the older elf-guy tells Buddy that his real father, a publishing tycoon named Walter (James Caan), lives in New York City, so Buddy sets off to find him.

I went to a matinee of this film yesterday, and I was rested and excited to laugh, since I think Ferrell is just hilarious.  Then, after sitting through that blah preview for “The Cat in the Hat” and that blah preview for “The Haunted Mansion”, things only got worse as the film stumbled out of the gates and didn’t give me much reason to even chuckle at some of the nonsense that was going on.  I guess that director Jon Favreau does a great job of showing us that Buddy is a needy, annoying man-child...but, this didn’t translate to laughs for me.  It doesn’t help that “Elf” has about five really funny scenes, and four of them are in the trailer, which I feared but thought Ferrell would have enough charisma to carry this drivel throughout.  Caan looks annoyed not only at the Buddy character but just being in this film altogether; co-stars Asner and Newhart have almost nothing to do, and co-star Zooey Deschanel (as Buddy’s love interest) just felt a little flat, and her supposed beautiful singing voice didn’t turn me on all that much.

The scenes in the trailer that are funny still work in the full-length form, though; the money shot for me was that ridiculous snowball fight, and watching Buddy dive in slow-motion and peg two kids running away with the powdery stuff.  It also reminded me of my favorite snowball fight of all time, during my first year at UVA where five guys from Gooch-Dillard jumped myself and six dormmates as we were walking to a dining hall one night for dinner.  Watching other guys take cover to avoid getting hit by snowballs—diving left, diving right, yelling and screaming, trying to locate the offenders—is just fantastic.

“Elf” wasn’t.

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09