starring Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, Mary Steenburgen
screenplay by David Berenbaum
directed by Jon Favreau
by Walter Chaw Some of the preview spots for Jon Favreau's Elf are hysterical, leading me to think that the film's failure to be very funny has a lot to do with bad direction, editing, or maybe both. It's a lightweight, unapologetically warm-hearted picture that earns a lot of respect for avoiding scatological humour en route to honouring nearly every other ingredient of the The Jerk bumpkin-out-of-water formula. Like Steve Martin, Will Ferrell announces himself with this film (and Old School) as a smart comedian unusually committed to effect and the directions his performance might take him. Ferrell isn't a chaotic jester. His clowning compels because it has the quality of internal logic, enough so that it's somehow possible to accept his man-raised-by-elves creation at face value.