Elf (2003)

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Released 10-Nov-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer-Rain
Audio Commentary-Jon Favreau (Director)
Audio Commentary-Will Ferrell (Actor)
Informational Subtitles-Fact Track
Featurette-Kids On Christmas
Featurette-Deck The Halls
Featurette-Santa Mania
Featurette-Christmas In Tinseltown
Theatrical Trailer
Music Highlights-With Song Introduction From Jon Favreau (Director)
Deleted Scenes-8, With Optional Director's Commentary
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Tag Along With Will Ferrell , Film School For Kids
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-How They Made The North Pole And Lights, Camera, Puffin!
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-That's A Wrap
Karaoke-Elf Karaoke
Storybook-Read-Along By Yourself Or With Narration
Game-The Race Down Mt. Icing, Snowball Fight, Fix Santa's Sleigh
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 92:45
RSDL / Flipper No/No
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jon Favreau
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Will Ferrell
James Caan
Bob Newhart
Edward Asner
Mary Steenburgen
Zooey Deschanel
Daniel Tay
Faizon Love
Peter Dinklage
Amy Sedaris
Michael Lerner
Andy Richter
Kyle Gass
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $34.95 Music John Debney
Frank Loesser


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
English Information
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes, everywhere, toys, drinks, food etc etc
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I don't mind a Christmas themed comedy as long as the comedy has a bit of an edge. I recently reviewed Olive, the Other Reindeer, from Matt Groening which fits the bill, as does this film Elf starring Will Ferrell. I am also a fan of Will Ferrell's comedy, from his days at Saturday Night Live to his roles in movies like Zoolander & Starsky & Hutch.

    Elf is the story of a young orphan who stows away in Santa's sack when Santa is visiting the orphanage. He ends up living with the Elves at the north pole. The elves decide to name him Buddy (Will Ferrell), based on the brand of nappies he is wearing. Santa (Ed Asner) entrusts him to the care of one of the senior elves, Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) who raises him as his own son. Buddy of course grows much bigger than the elves and it is obvious that he does not really fit in. He overhears some of the elves saying that he is really human and when he confronts Papa Elf, he tells him the truth. He also tells him that his real father, Walter Hobbs (James Caan), lives in New York. Buddy decides to leave the North Pole and set out in search of his father, who is a children's book publisher and not a particularly nice man. When initially rejected by his father he ends up in the Christmas department of a large department store, where he meets Jovie (Zooey Deschanel), an attractive young shop assistant working as one of the elves in the store. Buddy meets and charms Walter's family, his wife (Mary Steenburgen) and son (Daniel Tay) and eventually gets to Walter as well. By the end of the film, Buddy is a hero to all.

    This is a light hearted take on a Christmas movie with a minimum of  'message', although obviously there is some. On the plus side, it is very amusing and Will Ferrell is extremely funny as the naive and very enthusiastic Buddy. There are some very funny sequences, mostly involving Buddy doing dumb things because, despite the warnings given to him by Santa, he doesn't understand the big city. Will Ferrell's performance is definitely the glue which holds this production together. There isn't anything particularly wrong with the rest of it but he is what makes it such a fun film.

    Production values are high and the films looks wonderful, with great costumes and sets. It moves along well, never really slowing the pace, which is a credit to Jon Favreau who was directing his first major production after his independent debut, Made. He also has a small role in the film as a doctor who helps Walter determine his paternity of Buddy.

    All in all, this is a cut above most Christmas films.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality is very good with just a few compression artefacts which will not be obvious except probably on larger displays and projectors.

    The feature is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced which is the original aspect ratio.

    The picture was clear and sharp throughout, with no evidence of low level noise. The shadow detail was excellent. There was some very light grain probably due to the MPEG compression.

    The colour was excellent throughout with no artefacts.

    There were some minor MPEG compression artefacts. The main title has been compressed to fit on one layer which may be responsible for these artefacts. There was some minor aliasing present from time to time including on the escalator at 25:08, on Lego models at 33:18 and the heater at 45:43. Clothes, especially zippers and other joins, also exhibited some minor aliasing. I also noticed some minor macro-blocking on large expanses of plain colours such as walls. I should stress that these artefacts should not be visible on smaller displays but may show up more prominently if you are a plasma or projector owner.

    There are subtitles in English for the hearing impaired. The English subtitles were clear and easy to read.

    There is no layer change in the movie itself as the disc is a DVD5.
    

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio quality is excellent but the nature of the film means that it does not really test your home theatre.

    This DVD contains three audio options (not including commentaries); an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 448 Kb/s, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack encoded at 224 Kb/s and an English DTS 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 768 Kb/s. All soundtracks are of very good quality, and the DTS track as you would expect stands out, although due to the nature of the film is not spectacular. To some degree, DTS seems like overkill for this film, but it is a welcome addition nonetheless.

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand and there was no problem with audio sync.

    The score of this film by John Debney is excellent, full of Christmassy melodies and other jaunty tunes. Many well known tunes are also used which add to the overall excellence of the music. From a sound quality perspective, the music comes across very well.

    The surround speakers are used regularly adding some surround effects such as during the flashback sequence and the snowball fight. Generally, they provide an immersive soundfield but do not really stand out. This is due to the nature of the film rather than an issue with the sound quality.

     The subwoofer was nicely integrated and added bass mostly to the music. Again, due to the nature of the film, there was not a huge amount of LFE.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    All extras are presented 16x9 enhanced and most feature Dolby Digital 5.1 sound!

Menu

    The menu is designed to look like a Christmas children's book with fold out pages and tabs to pull. Each disc has a tab on the main menu which causes the menu to change slightly and different dialogue to play. Overall, this is an excellent menu, easy to use and with some excellent features.

Disc 1

Audio Commentary - Jon Favreau (Director)

    Generally this is not a bad commentary track but suffers a little from his slightly unenthusiastic voice and some pauses. He discusses casting issues, using the forced perspective technique for having Bob Newhart and the other elves appear so much smaller than Will Ferrell, using stop motion animation, his appearances both in voice and person, shooting locations, music selection, sound effects and problems encountered during the shoot. Would probably have been improved if he could have done a combined commentary with Will Ferrell rather than each one separately. Still worth a listen if you are a fan of the film.

Audio Commentary - Will Ferrell (Actor)

    Another decent commentary that doesn't rise to the heights of greatness. Again I think his commentary would have improved if he had been paired up with Jon Favreau rather than on his own. He is fairly serious and discusses why he was interested in the role, tells a few deadpan jokes and covers quite a bit of the same ground covered by the director such as how the animation was done and the forced perspective. Again there are some pauses and he is also guilty from time to time of describing the action onscreen rather than providing insights. Worth a listen but nothing special.

Fact Track

    A subtitle stream which provides trivia as the movie progresses. Most of the trivia is either very general movie trivia such as 'The score is a set of musical arrangements written to go with the action of a film' or trivia about things onscreen such as the Empire State Building. Certainly not the most interesting fact track I have seen, in fact fairly boring. I think it may have been designed for children (at least I hope it was).

Disc 2

About Christmas (6:31, 10:25, 6:30, 6:50)

    This section includes four separate featurettes about aspects of how Americans celebrate Christmas. They focus on light subjects rather than anything to do with the meaning of Christmas. A Play all function is available. Personally, I did not like them. They were:

All Access Pass : Theatrical Trailer (2:20)

    A pretty good trailer which includes most of the best jokes, as is usual for a comedy.

All Access Pass : Elf Jukebox (39:55)

    This feature basically gives you every song included in the film with an introduction by the director explaining how he chose that particular piece of music. The explanation is followed by the scene in the film where the song is used. After nearly 40 minutes this becomes quite tedious. Thankfully, you can choose each song individually.

All Access Pass : Deleted Scenes (11:35)

    8 deleted or alternate scenes are included here with optional commentary by Jon Favreau. The main extra scene which was not included is the first one, a comedic hockey game between teams of Elves, where Buddy's team has a distinct advantage, Buddy himself. The rest are only mildly interesting. The scenes are:

All Access Pass : Behind the Scenes (57:58)

    Definitely one of the highlights of the extras! This Making of documentary is split into 5 featurettes on different topics. All are interesting and lay out a comprehensive picture of the making of this film. They are designed with a young audience in mind, however, I found them very interesting. Unlike a lot of behind the scenes featurettes these show jobs which are not only the obvious ones, for example, dolly grips, on-set painters, continuity and prop wranglers. They try to give you the full picture of the amount of work and activity which must come together to organise a movie of this scale. A Play All Function is available. The individual featurettes are:

Fun & Games : Elf Karaoke (1:26,1:36 & 1:32)

    Your chance to sing along with the elves! You can either play these with or without the elves vocals. Includes the lyrics, karaoke style and scenes from the film. The songs are:

Fun & Games : Read Along - Elf, A Short Story of a Tall Tale (5:30)

    This seems to be the original children's book upon which the movie is based. Presented with or without narration, so you can either listen to the narrator and look at the pictures and words or read the words yourself. Kids will enjoy it...my son did!

Fun & Games : Games

    There are three games included, all of which are quite good for DVD games. You can either play them separately or there is a play all function. Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. The Games are:

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    On this basis the Region 4 version of the disc is the winner, especially when the PAL transfer is taken into account.

Summary

    A Christmas comedy which is a cut above the usual for this sort of thing.

    The video quality is very good but slightly overcompressed.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    The disc has a large selection of extras ranging from ordinary to excellent.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

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