Anyone in the market for a nice gift set this year may want to refer to the “Elf: Ultimate Collector’s Edition” set, a nice gift pack that will make a nice stocking stuffer for anyone who genuinely enjoyed Will Ferrell as an overgrown adopted Elf who goes in to the real world when he leaves the North Pole. “Elf” is really the only Will Ferrell movie I actually enjoy mainly because Ferrell is so unlike Ferrell here. He’s much more innocent, much more likable and never plays on his whole inept shtick he’s used to milk his film career since leaving Saturday Night Live. Now an apparent Broadway Musical (Ah, Broadway, you’ve sold your soul), this original film is a delightful and often hilarious fish out of water film about finding yourself after a life changing revelation, and trying to maintain innocence and optimism in a world filled with misery and cynicism.
While “Elf” does take time out to be wacky and entertaining, it’s also something of a statement about how this character named Buddy who tries to comprehend a world beyond his elf workshop where everyone is so concerned with making money and doing business all the while missing the point of the actual holiday. Obviously by the time Buddy is introduced to his long lost father (as played so memorably by a deadpan James Caan) he begins to affect their lives and vice versa. “Elf” is directed by Jon Favreau a man not entirely known for family comedy but manages to deliver a Christmas film that is completely out of the ordinary and manages to avoid being at all predictable and cliché until the final half in where the story trails off in to a slapstick magical finale that doesn’t mesh with the entire narrative.
Beyond that one major caveat Favreau casts an abundant array of talent for this comedy garnering Bob Newhart as Buddy’s adopted father, James Caan as the hilariously put upon long lost father of Buddy whose own self-centered way of approaching the world and keeping his business afloat interferes with getting to know Buddy, Mary Steenburgen as his open minded mother, and of course Zooey Deschanel as the dreamy Jovie, an aggressive New York girl who takes a liking to Buddy when his relentless joy and rose colored view of the world manages to fascinate her and lead her in to a bonafide romance.
There are of course cute in-jokes including a hysterical visit to the doctor where Buddy tries to tickle his doctor (as played by Favreau), and his violent confrontation with a famed author (Peter Dinklage) who Buddy is convinced is an elf leading to a fist fight that will assure laughs from the audience. There’s also a funny but sad fight with Buddy and a disgruntled department store Santa who enrages Buddy when he discovers he’s not the real deal. “Elf” really is a stand out among Ferrell’s filmography enlisting imagination and off the wall humor to provoke its viewing audience allowing for entertainment that can be accessible to adults and children (there’s unusual claymation reminiscent of the classic Rankin Bass films featuring characters voiced by Leon Redbone and Ray Harryhausen), and it’s definitely a film worth re-watching this year if only for Buddy’s sickening recipe of spaghetti, M&M’s, and maple syrup. Yuck.
The “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” comes with a large collector’s cookie tin with the Elf insignia and inside we’re given a veritable gift set that includes the “Elf” two disc Infinifilm edition that has the movie in Full Screen and Widescreen versions and garners the entirety of the original releases special features. Beyond the fun of “Elf,” there is a neat yellow stocking with Buddy’s hat on the center, the “Elf” soundtrack sampler featuring songs like “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Santa Baby,” there’s a large magnetic picture frame with Buddy’s mug on the front, and finally two sheets of adhesive gift tags for presents featuring none other than Buddy. Anyone who is a fan of Ferrell’s or “Elf” will find the Ultimate Edition to be a real collector’s item and it’s one definitely worth the purchase.