Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
It’s hard to find a modern Christmas movie worth a look every year for everyone in the household, but Elf is it.
This 2003 yuletide film made Will Ferrell a star — matched by Old School and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy as a height he’s never hit since. It also showed the first sign that Jon Favreau could work within the directorial realm of fantasy, as he’d later hone in Zathura and Iron Man.
Here, Ferrell’s as adept at sweetness as at rude and randy. Anyone who can shovel spaghetti mixed with maple syrup and Pop-Tarts so gleefully into his mouth is doing something right.
Ferrell plays Buddy, a human raised as an elf at the North Pole who ventures to New York to find his father. James Caan is greatly cast in this role and sells even the strangest sorts of sentiment — even enough to rise above some of the unreasonably grumpy Grinch moments the script forces upon him.
Just as winning is Zooey Deschanel — as Buddy’s love interest — tossing out zingers like the anti-Reese Witherspoon and displaying her singing voice as an added bonus. (Arguably, this movie helped She & Him — her indie-rock collaboration with M. Ward — off the ground.)
The North Pole scenes are a slow sit, but Elf jumps to life when the setting switches to a Macy’s-esque department store — where every scene packs undeniably comic punch, and themes and heart start to melt away ironic-hipster artifice.