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January 15, 2009
Elf Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
27/11/200315/1/2009Village RoadshowJon Favreau
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
VC-1Dolby TrueHD 5.1GWill Ferrell

THE MOVIE
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Will Ferrell stars in Elf.
With a production budget of only $33 million Elf was a monster hit for its makers with a worldwide gross surpassing $US220 million, almost 80% of which was made in America alone. Why it failed outside America is a little harder to understand as this is one of the most entertaining Christmas movies in quite a few years.

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.

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Decorating the Christmas tree.
Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of this movie is the director, Jon Favreau. When this movie came out he wasn't very well known, and indeed there probably isn't too much here that distinguishes this movie and his abilities from the crowd - except, perhaps, the stop motion animation used at the North Pole with the penguins and narwhal. In 2008 however he burst onto the scene with Iron Man which makes this look back at his earlier work even more interesting.

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.

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James Caan and Will Ferrell are brilliant together.
VIDEO
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.

AUDIO
Elf's main audio track is a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 effort and this movie, despite being dialogue driven, sounds pretty delightful. The encode on this disc is always clear when it comes to dialogue and there is some use of surround sound channels (a prime example being the lively street and department store scenes) and the sub woofer.

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.

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Will Ferrell is one big elf!
EXTRAS
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.

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The gorgeous Zooey Deschanel as Jovie in Elf.
Documentaries (1:28:24): Split up into 9 sections this covers many aspects of the production with plenty of behind the scenes footage, set creation, stop motion animation and post production among other things. It's not overly technical but is enjoyable. The footage has been encoded in VC-1 with a bitrate often in the 15-20Mbps range, but is only in Standard Definition which doesn't look the best. Audio is presented in 2 channel Dolby Digital at 192kbps.

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.

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This scene with Peter Dinklage is hilarious.
Theatrical Trailer (HD/2:24): The Theatrical Trailer for the movie.

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.

OVERALL
If you like Christmas movies then you'd be hard pressed to find something more enjoyable then Elf, at least, in the last decade. A solid transfer and some good extras makes this a disc worth a purchase on Blu-Ray. Enjoyable.

Review By: Dave Warner

THE MOVIE
7.5/10
THE VIDEO
7/10
THE AUDIO
8.5/10
THE EXTRAS
5/10
OVERALL
7/10

Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Village Roadshow. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.