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PCR # 190  (Vol. 4, No. 46)  This edition is for the week of November 10--16, 2003.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Two and a half stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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New Line Cinema     
Starring: Will Farrell, James Caan, Edward Asner, Zooey Deschanel, Mary Steenburgen and Bob Newhart
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Rated: PG
Running Time: 1 hour 35 mins

One of the few true "family" films of the season, "Elf" was just a little too sweet for my liking. Maybe it had something to do with the elf chart of daily food groups: candy, candy corn and syrup! Lot's of syrup. And like the sweet maple goodness that Buddy the elf (Farrell) craves, the film lays it on a little heavy.

"Elf" is the story of Buddy. Born to a mom who never told his father he existed, one Christmas Eve Buddy accidentally crawls into Santa's sack while the jolly old man is laying out the presents. Taken back to the North Pole, Buddy is raised by the elves as one of them by Papa Elf (Newhart). However, after sprouting to more then 6 feet tall and having to stoop to take a shower, Papa decides it's time that Buddy learns the truth. He is shown a snow globe of the city of New York and told his father works in the Empire State Building. Armed with that knowledge, he makes his way, on foot, to the Big Apple. He shows up at the publishing company his father (Caan) works for, still in full elf costume. Dad thinks he's just a holiday themed telegram messenger until Buddy mentions the name of his since deceased mother. Dismissed as crazy, Buddy is told to "take your act to Gimbels," which he does. He is immediately thought to be one of the Christmas employees and is sent to work with the store Santa. This excites Buddy to no end since, as he's quick to point out, "I KNOW HIM!" He soon makes the acquaintance of another store elf, Jovie. At first guarded about Buddy, she begins to soften up when she sees the genuine joy he has for the season. Will Buddy and his dad reunite? Will Jovie and Buddy fall in love? Will Santa Claus have to rely on Buddy to save Christmas? Will someone please pass the syrup?

In his first time carrying a film on his own, Farrell proves himself a winning personality. This is no Frank the Tank from "Old School." This is indeed a child in a man's body and I can't think of too many other actors who could have pulled Buddy off. Whether commenting about the "gi-normous" toilets or pointing out to others in a crosswalk that "the yellow ones don't stop" (he has repeated mishaps with the multitude of New York taxi cabs), Farrell is all wide eyes and wonder. A hilarious scene with short statured actor Peter Dinklage (so good in the current "The Station Agent") is made more so by Farrell not understanding that calling him an "elf" is insulting. However, Farrell aside, the film is basically a cookie cutter, fish out of water project. Director Favreau, who scored big with "Swingers," shows none of his flair, as if he's directing by the book. Caan is fine in a rare comedic role and Deschanel (the big sister in "Almost Famous") is very good as Jovie. Her natural wide eyes suit her well as she begins to believe and understand in Buddy's innocence. Too bad they didn't hire her dad, multiple Oscar nominated cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, to photograph the film. What should be a bright canvas of lights is almost muted at times. As if someone coated the film in syrup. On a scale of zero to four stars, I give "Elf" **. Two and a half stars

This week's movie review of "Elf" is ©2003 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2003, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova.