A dozen years after its release, 2003's ELF has deservedly become a perennial Christmas classic.
Will Ferrell has arguably his best film role as Buddy the elf, a human orphan that manages to climb into Santa's bag one night while Santa (Ed Asner, perfectly cast) is busy checking out the cookies.
Buddy grows up at the North Pole with the elves, but like Steve Martin's Nathan in "The Jerk" doesn't realize he's any different from the rest of the family.
In a sequence that pays clever and funny tribute to the Rankin/Bass TV Christmas specials of the sixties, Buddy sets off on an ice flow to get to Manhattan and reconnect with his human father.
On the Naughty list, Buddy's dad, Walter (James Caan) has no idea that he has a son. A ruthless publisher with no time for anything but work, Walter soon finds himself with a six foot plus man dressed in full elf regalia calling him Dad.
Ferrell can be an acquired taste on film, but here, his all-out commitment to being an elf fits the character perfectly and you can't help but cheer for the overgrown elf-man.
Director Jon Favreau (Ironman) gets a lot of things right, especially by supporting Ferrell with a terrific cast, including Bob Newhart as his adopted elf Dad, Mary Steenburgen as Walter's wife, Zooey Deschanel (perfect) as Buddy's co-worker/love interest and Peter Dinklage as a pretentious childrens book author.
So many classic scenes. "You're Not Santa!", eating cotton balls in the dr's office, Buddy's stint in the mailroom and of course the heart warming holiday finale in Central Park.
Fun, funny and perfect for yearly viewing, ELF has a heart as big as Buddy's and gets an A.