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Starring Will Ferrell and James Caan with Edward Asner and Bob Newhart
Written by David Berenbaum
Directed by Jon Favreau

IN SHORT: A passable and completely forgettable holiday comedy. [Rated PG for some mild rude humor and language. 90 minutes]

Written with all the depth of any of the Saturday Night Live skits he spent seven seasons performing on television, Will Ferrell steps up to full blown solo headliner status with Elf and delivers a film with enough laughs that it could be one of the better SNL skits. Those better skits all (eventually) wound up adapted as bad movies, so we guess Ferrell is slightly ahead of the game. Like most of those skits, whatever they may have been, it/they were amusing enough at the time and completely forgotten an hour later. Such is the case with Elf.

Our hero, as a baby at the age of one climbed into Santa Claus' sack o' toys and spent the next thirty years being raised as the adopted son of Papa Elf (Bob Newhart). The six foot tall "Buddy" (the reason for his name is too good a joke to spill) never figures out why he towers over all the other elves. When Papa explains it all to him, Buddy heads for New York to find his one surviving parent, a book publisher named Walter Hobbs (James Caan). Walter has a beautiful wife named Emily (Emily Steenburgen) and a ten year old son named Michael (Daniel Tay). The former goes out of her way to make the new addition to the family welcome. The latter, whose workaholic dad spends little enough time with him, is absolutely thrilled that his new, big brother parades around in yellow tights.

Let's start a dumb story checklist, okay? Walter, apparently, has no idea that he and his first wife had children. Santa (Ed Asner), apparently, didn't honor any kind of return policy. Cranky, apparently, knows when to look the other way during a dumb comedy because the last two items didn't get in the way of the more than occasional chuckle -- and how Buddy manages to bond with Michael evoked one of those chuckles.

Conveniently, Buddy arrives in New York during the holiday season and, when he isn't spontaneously making holiday decorations finds potential true love in the person of actress elf Jovie (Zooey Deschanel) at Gimbels, a local department store. [Gimbels is long out of business but we knew it well and were surprised to see it recreated with remarkable accuracy.] By the time all is said and done, Buddy will teach everyone the true meaning of Xmas. Elf goes out of its way to be family friendly though the one naughty word cited in the MPAA Ratings Advisory blew by us unnoticed.

This review is being written an hour after seeing a screening and we remember nothing more than that, even with the aid of supplied press notes. We laughed more than we expected to but if you pressed us up against a wall we couldn't tell you any of the jokes that got us ho-ho-ho-íng. That makes Elf a fairly painless sit and one you can take smaller kidlets to. Minors old enough to stay up late for broadcasts of SNL may find Elf a wee bit tame.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Elf, he would have paid . . .


Those of parental age will immediately recognize a cameo appearance by a seasonal Burl Ives character that, even though Ives' is long gone and no effort has been made to recreate the sound of Frosty the Snowman's voice, should bring a smile to (your) faces.

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