Elf tells the story of Buddy (Will Ferrell). As a baby, Buddy crawls into Santa's toy bag and is whisked off to the North Pole, where he is raised as an elf. A misfit who grows to be three times the size of his elf family, Buddy ultimately heads to his birthplace of New York City to seek out his roots. Unfortunately, they turn out to be a "Scrooge"-like father (James Caan) and a cynical ten-year-old stepbrother (Daniel Tay) who doesn't believe in Santa. Worst of all, everyone seems to have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas. But using his simple elf ways, Buddy sets out to single-handedly win over his family and save Christmas in New York, hoping to at last find his true place in the world.
I'm a sucker for Christmas movies, and Elf is one of my favourites. While not at the top of my list it certainly manages to interest and entertain. Will Ferrell plays Will Ferrell... I mean he plays a human he gets taken to the North Pole and is trained as an elf. While those scenes are interesting it really is the chemistry between he and James Caan that takes this movie up to the next level. Some great comedic moments can be found in this movie including when Buddy sings to his bemused dad on their first meeting, the fight in the board room with the midget whom Buddy thinks is, and keeps calling, an elf, and dancing in the mail room.
If there is one aspect of this movie which I don't like, it's the pretty terrible CG work done with Santa's sleigh at the end of the movie. It's quite obviously CG, and very poor at that. What makes it even worse is that the resolution of the Blu-Ray format shows this deficiency even more so then on DVD. Still, it's a minor quibble in an otherwise enjoyable movie.
Perhaps the strangest aspect of this release is simply that Village Roadshow are bringing this to Blu-Ray in mid-January. Why wouldn't you release it a month earlier, or perhaps hold it back for next Christmas season. It's a strange move, but at least the movie is out here now.
Elf is presented on Blu-Ray in the formats usual 1920 x 1080p resolution wiht the image has been framed at 1.78:1 to fill your widescreen TV making it a little wider then the theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, but you won't be complaining about the change. The video has been encoded using the VC-1 codec and generally holds a bitrate around the mid-20Mbps range.
Looking at the Blu-Ray release compared to the DVD demonstrates a dramatic increase in sharpness, and also vibrancy in colours. Indeed the image quality of this release, while not perfect compared to other Blu-Ray discs, is still very impressive. The North Pole scenes in particular are colourful and this shines through with this release.
The only other audio option on this disc is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at 640kbps. While it's not quite up to the Dolby TrueHD audio track it's certainly not a bad effort, and superior to the Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at 448kbps on the DVD - but probably slightly inferior to the 768kbps DTS track on the DVD. Having said that we really struggled to notice a difference.
Subtitles are also provided in one option - English SDH. This subtitle track sees the text shortened quite a bit from the spoken dialogue but allows for improved timing for reading the text.
Elf comes to Blu-Ray with a few extras ported from the DVD release so let's have a look...
Commentary with director Jon Favreau: Jon Favreau was a fairly new and unknown director when Elf came out but exploded into everyone’s mind in 2008 with the release of Iron Man. How does that relate to this commentary, well it doesn’t really, but he is fairly engaging and has plenty of details about the production of this movie so it's worth a listen.
Commentary with actor Will Ferrell: The star of this movie has also done up a commentary and it is also fairly interesting, and entertaining at times. Sometimes the same ground is covered as Jon Favreau's commentary, and it would have been better if the two tracks were combined into one, or the two recorded at the same time to share recollections.
Fact Track: A fact track can be turned on so that during the running of the movie information about Santa and the Elves is displayed. Trivia is pretty sparse, but somewhat interesting.
Focus Points: This featurette allows you to, at certain points in the movie, press the Enter Button to see how certain parts of the movie were made.
Elf Karaoke (4:37): A rather brief karaoke section where you can test your vocal chords to three popular Christmas carols, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, Deck the Hall and Jingle Bells. These can be played together or separate and with vocals turned on or off.
Deleted/Alternate Scenes (HD/12:08): Eight deleted or extended scenes are on offer here, with a few laughs to be had. Each is presented with the original audio or optional directors commentary.
Review By: Dave Warner