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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: DTS 5.1 Surround
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
  • None
  Extras
  • 6 Deleted scenes
  • Theatrical trailer
  • 2 Audio commentary - With Will Ferrell and Jon Favreau
  • Animated menus
  • Behind the scenes footage
  • Documentaries
  • Dolby Digital trailer
  • DTS trailer
  • Jukebox function

Elf

Roadshow Entertainment/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 93 mins . G . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Part of the agreement in being comedy’s ‘It’ boy seems to be the timely release of a by-the-numbers Christmas movie. Will Ferrell is no exception, having been passed the torch from Jim Carrey (The Grinch) who in turn received it from Tim Allen (The Santa Clause).

The plot is hardly original or surprising. An orphan baby is taken out of its element and brought up in a strange setting, only to be re-introduced into society to great comedic effect. This time, though, the baby is accidentally taken by Santa Claus (Ed Asner, whose big-man looks a lot like an angry father) and brought up in the North Pole among the laborious society of elves.

Likewise, Ferrell’s over-active turn as the human-turned-elf is not surprising. ‘Buddy’ steals every scene, just as we expect him to, and director Jon Favreau (who, as seen in his cameo as a doctor, seems to have inflated since his last directorial outing; Made) is wise to not turn the camera off the SNL graduate for more than a minute at a time.

What is surprising, however, is how well the film avoids the endless list of Christmas-movie-clichés. The first half of the film speeds along, never bothering to show us the parts of the story that we’ve seen in the hundred similarly-plotted films before it. When Buddy arrives in New York, dressed in his green jacket and yellow tights, we don’t get the standard scenes of New Yorkers making fun of him or taking advantage of the nioave fish-out-of-water. The action is kept to vignettes of Buddy misunderstanding his surroundings, which allows Ferrell to exercise his sketch-based comedy experience. And some of these scenes are roll-on-the-floor funny.

""Why don’t you just say it? I’m a cotton-headed ninny-muggins.""

Favreau clearly sees this as his career’s one Christmas movie, and he packs as many seasonal homage’s into the film as he can. The North Pole sequences feature stop-motion characters taken right out of American Christmas television specials; Santa’s costumes are taken from Coca-Cola ads from the 1940s; the plot involves Buddy meeting his father (James Caan) in the narratively-ubiquitous Empire State building; A scene on a bridge even has echoes of the ultimate Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life.

These touches, alongside Ferrell’s wild turn and the adult-friendly cast (seeing James Caan sing ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ will be a highlight for ‘Godfather’ fans) make this a reliable piece of family entertainment.

The humour is accessible to all, and rather than providing the Shrek-like distinction between what kids find funny and what their parents will laugh at, Ferrell manages to crack both at once.

Sadly, the film begins to falter in the final act, where the brisk pace is maintained. A film like this would be forgiven for slowing down a little here, and letting the momentum of the first two acts carry the remainder of the film. Instead, we continue to race along, introducing new characters (the very strange, Wraith-like, Central Park Rangers) which denies us the enjoyment of watching the characters resolve their journeys naturally. It feels rushed, and just as we’re being encouraged to savour the Christmas Spirit. Scrooges.

But this is Will Ferrell’s movie, and as such, we are given every possible opportunity to enjoy his hyperactive, full-body, double-twist dive into the role. Parents can play this one on repeat for the kids throughout December and find themselves repeatedly sitting down beside them and laughing along.

  Video
Contract

Presented in a 16:9 enhanced 1.85:1 ratio, the transfer is clear and artefact free. There are no visible compression errors, and the colour detail is clear and bright. All North Pole sequences incorporate digital effects and more traditional scale effects and stop-motion animation seamlessly, without any distortion or visual areas.

The video loses points, however, for an unimpressive use of blacks and shadows toward the film’s end. When the tone changes and the main action sequence begin, the colours dry up and leave a murky overall effect. Together with the unfortunate decline in the pacing of the film toward the end, this diminishes the overall effect of the film.

I know there was a layer-change in there somewhere, because the box says it’s ‘Dual Layer’, but I’ll be hum-bugged if I noticed it.

  Audio
Contract

Both the Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 mixes do a good job of filling the room with sound. The score is spread perfectly through all 5 speakers, and seems to hover in the middle of the viewing room. While the DTS mix gives the front, left and right speakers more to play with in the lower end, the Dolby Digital mix lets the Sub-woofer handle the brunt of the work. This can cause an imbalance in parts, but certainly not enough to suggest that the it will disappoint.

The 2.0 mix is nice, but not different enough from the ‘Stereo’ setting on your DVD player to warrant much more of a mention.

  Extras
Contract

While 2 discs of special features seems impressive from the cover (it’s called a ‘Ginormous 2-disc set!’), what actually appears here is an odd mix of stocking fillers.

Audio Commentaries: Jon Favreau and Will Ferrell each present a solo commentary on Disc One, and although both speak in depth about their experiences on the set, they are both surprisingly dry. Why, when you have two of the funniest men in Hollywood providing a commentary, would you put them in separate rooms and get them to talk alone? It is impossible not wonder about the commentary that could have been.

Fact Track: Presented as a subtitle line, rather than a series of pop-ups (ala ‘Back to the Future’ and ‘Spiderman’), this is also disappointingly tasteless. Did you know the biggest selling Christmas song of all time is ‘White Christmas’ by Bing Crosby? Yeah, so did I.

Disc Two is separated into three sections. About Christmas presents a series of short films on elements of Christmas culture in American society;

Kids on Christmas (6.31): Around 10 kids answer the big questions: ‘Who is Santa?’, ‘Where does Santa live?’, ‘What are elves?’, ‘How does a sleigh work?’… Not nearly as cute as one would expect.

Deck The Halls (10.25): A series of streets in middle-America where Christmas decoration is an addiction. Tour buses lap the most hideous ‘festive’ set-ups imaginable as a proud home owner explains “It usually takes me a good 35 days, 8 hours a day.”

Santa Mania (6.30): A giant, fibreglass Santa is rescued from the roof of a department store and becomes the centrepiece of the town. A man in a red wetsuit and white beard calls himself ‘The Surfing Santa of South Beach’. A woman makes hundreds of Santa costumes a year, while a customer explains he loves to dress up as the big man because “you get to see the inside of a child.” Riiiiigggghhhhtttt…..

Christmas in Tinseltown (6.30): Get it? Hollywood is ‘Tinseltown’, tinsel is around a lot in Christmas. Wasn’t there a film on the other disc?

The All Access Pass does what it promises and finally takes us back to a film called ‘ELF’.

Theatrical Trailer (2.20): Standard, cinema release that does a lovely job of highlighting Will’s greatest moments.

Elf Jukebox: Jon Favreau briefly introduces us to each piece of music in the film, then we get to see the clip. This one’s for people who don’t know what a ‘commentary’ is, and who are thinking of investing in the soundtrack. Otherwise, pointless.

Deleted Scenes: There’s six of them. None are missed from the film.

Behind The Scenes: A sub-menu that gives us a few more options. ‘TAG ALONG WITH WILL (7.02)’ is someone with a digital camera stalking Will, who appears to be a genuinely lovely guy. ‘FILM SCHOOL FOR KIDS (20.37)’ is the bizarrely-named making-of that we’ve been hoping for. And it gives us everything we want, plus a fair bit we don’t. Sure, we get to see the director work, and we get to see special effects made; but we also get to talk to the Dolly Grip! And the Gaffer!

How They Made The North Pole (11.30) is an interesting look through the world of production design, set and prop construction and other design elements. ‘LIGHTS, CAMERA, PUFFIN (6.36)’ is a short feature detailing the work of the stop-motion animators and ‘IT’S A WRAP (12.13)’ explores the magical world of post-production.

The final section on Disc Two is Fun And Games. This sub-menu leads you to three more options, and these are all for the kids. ‘ELF KARAOKE’ gives you the opportunity to sing along to 3 Christmas songs while watching clips from the movies. ‘READ-ALONG’ lets kids read the story of Elf for themselves (or with narration), and ‘BUDDY’S ADVENTURES’ gives you three nice little DVD games. These will have limited appeal, but finally give kids a reason to pop the second disc into their players.

A lot of care has been taken on this disc with wonderfully animated menus (complete with pop-up tabs!), and all features are presented in 16:9, but like the traditional Christmas pavlova, this is mostly just colour on the top with a disappointingly soggy middle.

  Overall  
Contract

There are a lot of strange little toys stuffed into this particular Christmas stocking which won’t appeal to the kids, but won’t give the parents much joy either. Fortunately, the stocking itself is a lot of fun to put on, and probably the best ‘festive’ addition to your collection you’re likely to make this Christmas.


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      And I quote...
    "Will does it by hims-ELF..."
    - Tristan Lutze
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sharp SX68JF100 (F2 Full Flat)
    • Lifestyle System:
          Sony HT-K215
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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