Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Elf (IMDB) (Netflix)
In Swingers and Made, indie writer-director Jon Favreau chronicled the humorous, slightly pathetic lives of two hipsters manqué. Elf goes entirely the other way, with a big budget and Will Ferrell as a 6’3”, thirty-ish eight-year-old raised at the North Pole. Ferrell’s lacking the elfin necessities, and once he finally realizes his true human nature, strikes out for New York City to re-unite with his biological father, a “naughty list” mainstay in the form of Mr. James Caan.

There’s nothing hip about Ferrell’s character, fortunately, from the green-and-yellow elf suit to his complete naïveté about the world, least of all regarding the hard-boiled Big Apple (sorry, it was there, begging to go on the page). He’s as completely clueless, trusting and energetic as a puppy, and the rest of the cast (notably Bob Newhart, Mary Steenburgen and Zooey Deschanel) wisely stay low-key to maximize the effect. The climactic sequence doesn’t have nearly the impact one would hope for, but this is a strong mainstream showing for Mr. Favreau, and he owes almost all of its success to Ferrell’s talent for sweet self-mockery.