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ELF ($29) is a cute and very funny holiday themed movie that really has its heart in the right place, but isn’t so sugar coated that it will put one into a diabetic coma. As ELF opens, we are introduced to the character of Papa Elf (Bob Newhart), who explains about the livelihoods of elves, as well as the plum job of working at the North Pole making toys for Santa. The revelations about elves working at the North Pole transitions into the story of the only human to find his way to Santa’s Workshop.

It seems that a number of years ago, Santa Claus (Edward Asner) dropped some presents at a New York orphanage, and upon his return to the North Pole, Saint Nick discovers that a baby boy had crawled into his bag of Christmas presents. Given the name Buddy, the orphaned baby is adopted by Papa Elf, who raises the human boy as an Elf. However, Buddy (Will Ferrell) soon grows to six foot three, which makes him stand out from other Elves. In addition to his height, Buddy’s weak toy making skills leads the Papa Elf to disclose to Buddy the truth about his origins. Papa Elf further discloses that Buddy’s biological mother is deceased, however, Buddy’s father Walter Hobbs (James Caan) is very much alive, but was never made aware of his son’s existence.

Buddy’s desire to be reunited with Walter, is the springboard to a fish out of water tale, involving our innocent "Elf" trying to connect with his New York businessman father, who has absolutely no Christmas spirit, and has definitely earned himself a place on Santa’s Naughty List. Buddy’s New York adventure also includes unintended employment as a department store Christmas elf, as well as a romance with Jovie (Zooey Deschanel), who has donned department store elfin attire for the Holiday Season. Of course, no family Christmas movie would be complete without the Holiday itself being in jeopardy, not to mention the need for our hero to save the day. The cast of ELF also features Mary Steenburgen, Daniel Tay, Faizon Love, Peter Dinklage, Amy Sedaris, Andy Richter, Artie Lange and Leon Redbone.

New Line Home Entertainment has made ELF available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. This is a truly nice looking 1080p presentation that is certain to please. Sure, ELF is not a demonstration disc, but still makes for a fairly sweet looking Blu-ray. Image sharpness and fine detail get pretty high marks, but are definitely not at the top of the class. There are some shots that appear a little softer than others, but nothing is too far out of sorts. Additionally, there is a fairly nice dimensional quality to the image. Colors are generally bright, fully saturated and very appealing- especially the Christmas red and greens. Flesh tones are always appealing. Blacks appear accurate, as do the whites. Contrast and shadow detail are just fine. The elements from which ELF has been mastered appear virtually pristine. Grain is really quite mild, and there is some evidence that it has been digitally manipulated out of the image.

ELF is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. For the most part, this is a fairly standard talky comedy mix, but there are some more lively moments where the outlying channels engage for discrete sound effect placement, as well as some really nice panning of sounds. As much of ELF is on the talky side, it is nice that the sound design integrates the dialogue into natural sounding sonic environments, like busy department stores and New York streets. Voices have a warm, natural quality, plus the film’s dialogue is always completely understandable. The musical component has strong fidelity and the sound effects are very convincing. While the bass channel sees limited duty, it does add weight to the track. English, Spanish and German Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, Spanish and German subtitles.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements. ELF features two running Audio Commentaries; the first is with director Jon Favreau, while the second with actor Will Ferrell. A pop-up Fact Track offers seasonal trivia, as well as movie related insights. For the older viewers, Featurettes include: Tag Along With Will Ferrell (seven minutes), How They Made The North Pole (twelve minutes), Lights Camera Puffin (six minutes) and That’s A Wrap (twelve minutes). Youthful viewers will probably enjoy the following set of Featurettes: Film School For Kids (twenty-one minutes), Kids On Christmas (six minutes), Deck The Halls (ten minutes), Santa Mania (six minutes), Christmas In Tinseltown (seven minutes) and Elf Karaoke (four minutes). Eleven minutes of Deleted Scenes, a Theatrical Trailer and a Digital Copy of the film close out the supplements.

ELF is a Holiday treat that isn’t too sweet for its own good. The Blu-ray presentation is very good, but I would have preferred a bit more grain and fine detail were left in the picture. If you are a fan, or haven’t picked up this Holiday comedy before, you’ll want to check out ELF on Blu-ray.



Elf [Blu-ray] (2003)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2008 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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