In the classic 'fish out of water' tale, an orphan makes it to the North Pole via a Santa Claus blunder. Upon his arrival, Papa Elf (played by Bob Newhart) takes the little boy and raises him under the name Buddy. As Buddy grows and grows and grows, he struggles to fit in with the other elves. With Will Ferrell playing Buddy, the grown up elf, he is told why he is different from everyone else. Buddy decides to head to New York to seek out his true family and discover himself. Sounds pretty basic, huh? Did I mention Buddy still dresses in an elf suit with tights and clogs? How about that Buddy still thinks, talks, and acts like a child from an innocent land centered around Christmas spirit? Well, these details, which seem too silly to work on screen, are marvelous under the vision of director Jon Favreau. The result is a hilarious look at a boy trying to find his father during the Christmas season and how he touches lives along the way.
How cool is it that Peter Billingsley is connected with two of the best Christmas comedies on film? In a teaming that is becoming more and more common, Jon Favreau gave the man known to many as Ralphie "You'll Shoot Your Eye Out" Parker an uncredited role as an elf in "Elf". Billingsley's involvement, though minor, just adds to the charm and appeal of "Elf". It is essentially a kid's movie that adults won't mind seeing more than once. Will Ferrell rides a fine line of enthusiasm as his potentially over the top portrayal of Buddy works well with the story. You can almost see Ferrell's inner child being channeled with some of the expressions and innocent looks he shows throughout the movie. His energy is infectious, not only for the other characters in the movie, but for the audience as well. This liveliness gives "Elf" enough of a boost to give "A Christmas Story" a challenge as the best comedy to watch with the family over the holiday season.
New Line gives us a pristine 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio. Colors are sharp and well defined on this great looking picture. Detail level is great on the PSP screen, with only minor background details being affected by the small screen. The bright look of "Elf" holds up well under normal lighting conditions. Considering most will view this title over the winter months as Christmas looms, the screen should be more visible without the overpowering glare of the sun. The overall look of the movie rivals its DVD counterpart. New Line has always had great looking DVD's and it seems like they have brought their great presentation to the UMD format as well.
Sound seems to be a constant struggle on the PSP. With the faceplate speakers limiting the soundstage, many movies need some type of audio enhancement to discover their potential on UMD. While "Elf" is no exception, it does have a bit more quality when heard on the PSP speakers. Only whispers and under the breath comments are hard to hear with the faceplate speakers. Amplified sound with powered speakers will provide depth to the soundstage, bringing "Elf" to life. English and Spanish subtitles are provided on the UMD as well.
New Line has packed this dual layered UMD with a few extra features ported over from their Infinifilm DVD. First are two commentary tracks, one with Jon Favreau and the other with Will Ferrell. Favreau provides the usual director insight with information regarding the cast and crew. Ferrell aids in providing details about production and behind the scene details while injecting humor here and there. The tracks may not be the laugh riot many would hope for, but they are entertaining. Though the two don't really overlap information, it would have been a treat for fans to have the two together to record a track. Both gentlemen seem to thrive when in the company of others. Eight deleted/extended scenes make it to the UMD as well as a tag along with Will Ferrell. Trailers for "Elf" and "Secondhand Lions" round out the UMD. Another minor detail is animated menus. The easy to navigate menu is full of life and color, an area most UMD's ignore.
A title like "Elf" is a welcome addition to anyone's UMD library. It is a fun comedy that has good pacing and universal appeal. New Line has taken the time with "Elf" to give fans a lot of details missing from many UMD's like animated menus and extra features. Add a solid picture with good sound and "Elf" is a highlight in the UMD format. The only problem I had with "Elf" on UMD is explaining to my five-year-old daughter why she can't have my PSP. In her eyes, "Elf" transformed my PSP from 'that thing that plays games' into 'that thing that plays "Elf"'. Expanding their customer base this easily should bring some holiday cheer to the folks at Sony and New Line both.