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Friday, November 07, 2003
ELF

Bob Newhart actually has the best laughs in this new holiday movie. Newhart (who doesn't really ever act, but rather just inhabits) plays the Papa Elf character who raises a human baby that has crawled into Santa's sack and ends up in the North Pole. There are a lot of sight gags in which Newhart's 2 foot tall character strives to parent Will Farrell's 6 foot two character, although neither of them seems to notice the height difference.

But I get ahead of myself.

Elf is a harmless piece of holiday candy. There are a few clever jokes that will make adults barely chuckle. The film will especially appeal to boys from about age 7 to age 11, because all of the protagonists are male, and nearly all the jokes are physical comedy stuff. There is a nice message about being a good Dad, and about believing in Santa, which comes through despite a sloppy script with paper-thin characterizations and no attempt to provide believable motivations.

There is one early reference to the fact that the Will Farrell character was the product of a youthful affair, the existence of which may or may not be something you want to talk to your five year old about. But, sigh, we're just surrounded with this as reality, aren't we? Can't imagine telling Hollywood to keep it out of the movies.

Elf is what it is: a place to take kids over the holidays without fear of damage to their mortal characters or immortal souls.