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The One-Line Summary: While delivering gifts to an orphanage on Christmas Eve, Santa Claus (Edward Asner) doesn’t realize that a baby has crawled into his sack until he returns to the North Pole, where Pappa Elf (Bob Newhart) voluntarily raises him until one day, when “Buddy” (Will Ferrell) finally gets that he’s not exactly like the other elves, decides to contact his real dad, Walter (James Caan) who happens to be on Santa’s naughty list.
The Two-Line Blurb: Directed by Jon Faverau, Elf is a mostly funny comedy that has its heart in the right place, perfectly casting Ferrell as the innocent and naive man-child who after living a life as an over-sized elf, comes to the real world and learns what it’s like to be a man. While the ending falters and can’t wrap-up the story as well is it should, the relationships Buddy makes with his father, his new brother, and especially Jovie (Zooey Deschanel) the quirky girl he falls for, are especially well done and while sight gags and jokes are prevalent, they feel earned adding much the story’s already infectious warmth.
The Three-Line Set-up: This moment is all about Buddy learning that life in the big city is a little different than back home and begins when he can’t get past security where in the building where his father works and is told to go back to Gimbels, a department store, because he looks like an employee in an elf costume. Once there, he is actually mistaken for an employee by a manger (Faizon Love) and put to work where he meets fellow ToyLand employee Jovie, a pretty but disillusioned clerk who has a terrific singing voice when she is in the store employee shower, as Buddy discovers innocently. When it is announced that Santa is coming to Gimbels, Buddy is overjoyed, not understanding that in the human world, Santa is portrayed by actors.
The Four-Line Moment: After spending the entire night in the store using his elf skills to decorate the Christmas section in a wildly over-done display of paper cut-outs, LEGO cities, fake snow, trees and lights, “Santa” (Artie Lange) finally arrives and Buddy rushes to meet him, thinking he will see the man who actually lives in the North Pole. The imposter is a guy in a suit and beard, and Buddy senses right away that something isn’t right, accusing the actor of being a fake and sitting on a throne of lies before he finally pulls the pretend beard from Santa’s face, causing a chorus of screams from the children waiting for a chance to sit on St. Nick’s lap. Santa jumps on Buddy and the two begin to wrestle as Buddy continues to shout out that the man in the red suit is a fraud, destroying everything that he created the night before. The moment reveals how pure Buddy is, how utterly entrenched in the truth of his life he is, a belief that while funny and absurd to the rest of us, is what he teaches others, eventually saving Christmas.
The Five-Word Review: Genuinely funny family Christmas movie.