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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Elf

Starring: Will Ferrell, James Caan
Director: Jon Favreau
Rated: PG
RunTime: 95 Minutes
Release Date: November 2003
Genres: Comedy, Christmas, Family

*Also starring: Edward Asner, Patrick Baynham, Annie Brebner, Mary Steenburgen, Daniel Tay, Michael Roberds, Luke Pohl, Bob Newhart, Faizon Love

Review by Susan Granger
2½ stars out of 4

If you're looking for a spirit-of-the-season family film, this may jingle up some holiday cheer.

Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) begins the tale, relating how - 30 years ago - an orphaned baby crawled into Santa's sack of toys and was inadvertently carried back to the North Pole. Raised as an elf and trained to toil in Santa's Workshop, disarmingly genial Buddy (Will Ferrell) fears he's a "cotton-headed ninny-muggins" until he notices that he's three times as big as everyone else and the only baritone in the Elf Choir. Clearly, he needs to find his proper place in the world.

To trace his roots, Santa (Ed Asner) advises him to seek out his human father, Walter Hobbs (James Caan), even though the heartless Hobbs seems to have carved out a permanent niche on the 'Naughty' list. So Buddy treks through the candy-cane forest and sea of gum-drops to find the Empire State Building, where crusty, unsuspecting Hobbs works as a Scrooge-like book editor.

The exuberant "deranged-elf-man-in-Manhattan" segment finds naive Buddy meeting the rest of the Hobbs family (Mary Steenburgen, Daniel Tay), working at Gimbels and giving confidence to a singing co-worker (Zooey Deschanel) - until Christmas Eve rolls around and Buddy must engender some Christmas spirit to ignite the magical Clausometer on Santa's stalled sleigh.

Problem is: neither director Jon Favreau nor writer David Berenbaum has a clear comedic vision as reality and fantasy collide. The story is underwritten and the pacing uneven. While Will Ferrell radiates wide-eyed wonder, his weird goofiness in the elf suit with yellow tights eventually wears thin. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Elf" is a silly, sweet-natured 6. Youngsters and "Saturday Night Live" fans will find amusement in its festive absurdity.

Copyright 2003 Susan Granger

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