I’m doing this review in two parts, because most of this movie was really good, and then the last twenty minutes or so feel like a completely different movie. I’ll explain why in Part Two.
The premise of the story is that a human (Will Ferrell) has been raised his whole life by elves at Santa’s workshop, grows up believing he’s an elf himself, finds out at age 30 that his biological father (James Caan) is a human living in New York City, and heads to the city for a visit.
Will Ferrell embodies the character of Buddy the Elf and all the innocence, child-like wonder and enthusiasm that one who grew up in Santa’s workshop would be expected to have. He is believable and hysterical in this role. Ferrell has an ability to become his character in a way that few comedic actors can. I don’t know exactly how his brain works, but it’s like simultaneously his actor-self does something thinking “this would be funny” while his character-self doesn’t realize he’s being funny.
There is a scene early in the film that acknowledges the doubts and questions that surround the idea of Santa’s existence. I have strong feelings about how parents typically deal with the issue. But I told myself I would only do that rant once, on account of how easily offended some people are, and have been, by my thoughts on it. So rather than repeat it, I’ll just give you the link to the post Mixed Messages and let you read my thoughts there if you’re interested. Moving on…this movie actually addresses the questions in a mature, partially sarcastic way that adults would appreciate and might go over children’s heads. …Though I give children a lot more credit than most adults do.
This version of Santa looks like an old, drunk, homeless person. I imagine the intent was to make him feel more human than Santa is usually depicted. Which is an admirable thought. But there’s human, and then there’s drunk uncle. No kid wants to sit on drunk uncle’s lap. Thanks…
Brief obscenity and profanity. It is very scarce, but if you’re a cautious parent then any amount is too much. It’s a shame because the rest of it is a good, clean, family movie. It still really irritates me when directors put language in films intended for kids, but that’s a whole ‘nother rant.
That’s the end of my thoughts on the majority of the film. The last little bit of it is a completely different animal though.