Before Jon Favreau hit it big with 'Iron Man', he came along and sort of broke out as a director with this nice little Christmas film.
Buddy (Will Farrell) is a human being who, as a baby, stowed himself away in Santa's (Ed Asner) sack. Upon arriving at the North Pole, and being that he was from an orphanage, he was adopted by Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) and raised at the North Pole as an Elf.
By the time he's around 30, Papa Elf tells him about his history, and Buddy sets out to find out who he is by locating his real father, Walter (James Caan), in New York.
Upon finding him there, he's further introduced to his family; his apparent stepmother, Emily (Mary Steenbergen) and his half brother, Michael (Daniel Tay). He also meets and falls for a Gimbles elf named Jovey (Zooey Deschenel) who isn't quite in the Christmas spirit.
Most of the film involves the various funny situations that an innocent and childlike North Pole elf would probably face in a city like New York. Most of the time, the results are pretty funny, like mistaking a man in a red hoodie as Santa or even calling the now mighty Peter Dinklage an "Elf", not to be prejudice, but because he doesn't know any better.
Will Farrell has his ups and downs. He's a fine enough actor in his more serious roles, but he's more typecast as a sort of man-child. Every once in a while a movie role will come along that's seemingly made for certain celebrities, and this is probably Will Farrell's. His man-child behaviour just works out really well here, as Buddy is supposed to essentially be a 30-year-old kid whose still full of Christmas wonder.
Another thing to admire about the film as that they sort of went all out for the North Pole scenes in order to make it more like the many Christmas specials we all know and love. This is complete with claymation animals, what is essentially the snowman from 'Rudolph', and the falling snow is all fancy cut out paper. It's all left behind for the real world, but it does a good job of initially pulling you into the film.
Where 'Elf' suffers a bit is that it's mostly the typical family-friendly story about a Dad who works too much and doesn't have time for his kids. It's not really anything new in that sense. The difference this time around though is that he's also dealing with a 30-year-old son who happens to be a North Pole elf.
It's a decent family friendly film, with some humour aimed at the adults watching it as well. It's kinda nice seeing a Christmas movie come along that teaches us to embrace our inner child rather than just leave it behind altogether. It's not quite 'Arthur Christmas', but it's not far behind it for becoming a new Christmas classic.