Review by Lauryn Angel
Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas distills the plot of the 2003 Will Ferrell vehicle in a 43-minute animated special. Ed Asner returns as Santa, but he is the only actor from the original movie to reprise his role. Jim Parsons takes over the role of Buddy and gives an enthusiastic performance as the merry human raised at the North Pole. Mark Hamill provides the voice for Walter Hobbs (originally portrayed by James Caan), Buddy’s father, who has been on the naughty list for over thirty years. Also notable is Kate Micucci, who takes over Zoe Deschanel’s role of Jovie, Buddy’s love interest.
The plot of the forty-five minute special is not very different from that of the original movie. Upon finding out the he is, in fact, a human and not an elf, Buddy travels to New York City to find his birth father, Walter. Walter Hobbs lost his Christmas spirit long ago, and merely sees the holiday as a way to make more money. Buddy is determined to change his father’s ways and bring Christmas spirit to everyone he encounters. Aside from condensing the story to just under half the running time of the original movie, the biggest change is the addition of the songs, which, to my adult ears, were catchy, but not particularly memorable.
The truly delightful aspect of this film, though, is the animation. I was reminded of the Rankin-Bass productions I used to watch as a child – Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town. The animation style is very similar, but the level of detail has been kicked up several notches. I often found myself mesmerized by the textures of the characters’ hair — mostly Jovie’s and Mr. Greenway’s (Gilbert Gottfried). The animation gives us clues as to the level of importance of the characters – for example, most of the random New Yorkers Buddy encounters have blue skin tones, while the Naughty Listers who play the role of antagonists later in the special are rendered in tones of green and brown.
Elf: Buddy’s Magical Christmas is a great Christmas story for viewers who are perhaps too young to watch the original film. It’s colorful and the songs are relatively entertaining. Adults might find themselves better served by watching the original movie, which develops at a less frenetic pace than this condensed version. The only special feature on the DVD release is a behind-the-scenes feature with interviews with Jim Parsons, Mark Hamill, Gilbert Gottfried, and directors Mark Caballero and Seamus Walsh.
Own it on Blu-ray™ Combo, DVD & Digital HD 11/3.
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