Ferrell saving grace of ‘Elf’

Matt Siblo

Will Ferrell can do anything he damn well pleases. Time and time again he has made terrible skits turn into gold and horrible movies into proverbial laugh riots. In his latest film, “Elf,” we see the makings of a softer side of Ferrell, who seems to be testing the waters for the risky jump to more wholesome and family-oriented material. This move has, time and time again, been a dicey one for many comedians, and there have been plenty of unfortunate comedy causalities left along the way. (See movies made in the past five years by Robin Williams, Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy for further proof.) The mighty can fall and so many have unfortunately never quite made it out alive after making one too many fluff pictures.

Luckily, Ferrell has the charisma to make his PG self work. He plays an “elf” named Buddy, who grows up in the North Pole after accidentally escaping his crib in an orphanage by sneaking into Santa’s toy bag. After noticing the obvious “one of these things is not like the other” differences between himself and every other North Pole inhabitant, Ferrell is told the truth about his human origins and he’s then off to the big city in search of his roots.

At this point, Ferrell is dropped into an unfamiliar city and classic “fish out of water” antics ensue. The gags’ effectiveness vary heavily, only rarely hitting the big laughs we’ve come to expect from Ferrell. His charisma and ironic innocence is humorous for a while, but after about an hour the script’s overt intention of giving us all that “fuzzy feeling” was far too much for me to handle. (Especially in early November.) Even cameos by Conan O’Brien alum Andy Richter and Tenacious D’s Kyle Gass couldn’t save me from holiday cheer overload, as these two immense talents were wasted because they weren’t even given comedic roles.

Simply stated, “Elf” was a cute film, possibly entertaining and skeptically funny but in no way could it be construed as good. While it had its share of amusing bits (most notably when Buddy interacts with the strange holiday claymation characters we all remember from holiday specials), the movie gives nothing to its audience besides an enigmatic lead who has been given the unfortunate responsibility to carry a generic holiday gasbag on his shoulders. If anyone could have had a shot at making this movie work it would have been Ferrell, but he simply can’t do it all himself.