Director Jon Favreau’s Elf is an adorable Christmas classic that the whole family can enjoy. It is now being released in an Ultimate Collector’s Edition, although that label seems a bit of a stretch as “Knick-Knack Collector’s Edition” is a more accurate description.
A little orphan baby stows away inside Santa’s sack one Christmas Eve and ends up at the North Pole. He is named Buddy after a name on his diapers and is adopted by Papa Elf (Bob Newhart). Buddy (Will Farrell) is raised as if he was an elf, but doesn’t fit in and eventually learns the truth about his origins.
Buddy’s mother, Susan, has since died, but his father Walter (James Caan), who didn’t know Buddy had been born, lives in New York City. Buddy goes to meet him. Walter doesn’t believe Buddy, but after a DNA test proves their relation, Walter takes Buddy in, although it is presumed Buddy’s child-like naiveté is some psychological disorder. Buddy also meets Jovie (Zooey Deschanel), a department-store worker who he becomes immediately smitten with but she is slightly put off by his odd behavior. Things are complicated as Buddy tries to fit in the human world, but when Santa requires Buddy’s help in the final act, it’s a safe bet things are going to turn out all right for all involved.
Favreau has a talented team assembled to create Elf. Farrell is perfect as Buddy, equal parts silly and sweet as he deftly taps into being a kid. The rest of the cast plays it straight, which balances the story. Rather than rely on CGI, the crew used a lot of forced perspective tricks to deal with the size difference of Buddy and the elves.
The Blu-ray is the same as the 2008 release. The video is given a 1080p/VC-1 encoded transfer with an aspect ratio of 1:85:1. The colors are vibrant, particularly at the North Pole where they contrast with the white surroundings. Blacks are strong though not always consistent, a flaw that also plagues the skin tones. However, there are a lot of different-hued light sources, which may contribute to the latter issue. Although occasional softness appears, the image offers very good detail and textures.
While the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track won’t blow away hardcore audiophiles, it delivers a solid presentation adequate to the needs of the film. Dialogue is clear and blends well with the other elements. Objects can be heard moving across channels. John Debney’s score sounds great as it fills the speakers. The rears offer some department store ambiance from Gimbels. The subwoofer doesn’t have a great deal to do in this comedy, but it does help deliver some oomph to the Santa’s sleigh engines. There are also Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround tracks in English, Spanish, and German.
The extras are taken from the 2004 Infinifilm Edition DVD. There are two separate commentary tracks by director Jon Favreau and star Will Farrell, and both are very enthusiastic about the results. Favreau reveals a lot of the magic about how certain scenes were done.
There is a thorough collection of “Documentaries” (SD, 88 min) covering all aspects of creating the film. The last few deal with Christmas itself to help set the holiday mood. “Fast Track,” offered in English, Spanish and German, provide fun facts about the film and those involved with it. “Focus Points” offer more making-of documentaries that can be accessed when an icon appears on screen. Unfortunately, it makes for terrible viewing of the film to have viewers cut in and out. I would have liked to have been able to access the Focus Points separately, but didn’t see that it was possible.
“Fun + Games” features “Elf Karaoke” (5 min) with optional vocals on Xmas songs: “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”, “Deck the Halls’ and “Jingle Bells”. Additional Scenes (SD, 11 minutes) with optional commentary by Favreau present Deleted/Alternate Scenes.
The Ultimate Collector’s Edition contain the Blu-ray in a collectible tin accompanied by a digital copy, a 5×7″ Magnetic Elf Picture Frame with 4×6″ Magnet, 15 Elf Gift Tags, a Five-Track Elf Soundtrack Sampler, and a 14″ Plush Elf Holiday Stocking. Nothing in the tin really wows, so fans of Elf or those who haven’t been fortunate enough to see the film yet would be better off just picking up the Blu-ray on its own.