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Modern holiday classic 4 Stars

Warner brings Jon Favreau’s holiday classic elf to 4K UHD Blu-ray with a much-improved transfer.

Elf (2003)
Released: 07 Nov 2003
Rated: PG
Runtime: 97 min
Director: Jon Favreau
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Family
Cast: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart
Writer(s): David Berenbaum
Plot: Raised as an oversized elf, Buddy travels from the North Pole to New York City to meet his biological father, Walter Hobbs, who doesn't know he exists and is in desperate need of some Christmas spirit.
IMDB rating: 7.0
MetaScore: 64

Disc Information
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 2160p HEVC w/HDR
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, English Descriptive Audio, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: PG
Run Time: 1 Hr. 37 Min.
Package Includes: UHD, Blu-ray, Digital Copy
Case Type: 2-disc UHD keepcase with slipcover
Disc Type: UHD
Region: All
Release Date: 11/01/2022
MSRP: $33.99

The Production: 4/5

Actor Will Ferrell is an acquired taste. His characters can be brash and annoying. However, in Jon Favreau’s modern holiday classic elf, Ferrell is perfectly cast as the naïve man-child Buddy, who as an infant stowed away on Santa’s (Ed Asner) sleigh during a stop at the orphanage. Not knowing what to do with Buddy, Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) adopts the child and raises him as his own. Buddy grows to be a full 6 foot 3 inch human, never really fitting in at the North Pole. Finding out that he’s been adopted, he travels to New York City in search of his birth father, Walter (James Caan), a bitter children’s book publisher who has been on Santa’s naughty list for nearly his entire adult life, and wants nothing to do with Buddy, mostly because he never knew Buddy existed. Walter also has a family of his own, married to Emily (Mary Steenburgen) with whom he had a son, Michael (Daniel Tay). After a DNA test, it is confirmed that Buddy is in fact Walter’s son, who takes him home to meet the family. With Emily’s encouragement, they allow Buddy to stay in their New York apartment. Buddy soon finds employment at Gimbel’s department store working as a helper to the store’s Santa, and meets the beautiful but at first uninterested Jovie (Zooey Deschanel), who is also working as a helper. The two strike up a friendship that develops into something much more, and in the process Buddy begins to melt Walter’s stone-cold heart and must bring back the Christmas Spirit that fuels Santa’s sleigh when the jolly old man gets stuck in Central Park.

It is Ferrell’s ability to play an innocent man-child that helps drive the film rather than be a distraction or even off-putting as he can be in films such as A Night at the Roxbury or Old School. Credit also has to go to director Jon Favreau, who showed for the first time his ability to use practical effects, such as forced perspective and stop motion animation, to tell the story and evoke a sense of nostalgia for the old Rankin-Bass holiday specials such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Buddy even wears the same costume as Herbie the Misfit Elf does in Rudolph. Elf was surprise hit for New Line Cinema, who had modest hopes for its success at best, but went on to gross over $225 million for the studio worldwide, and became a best seller on home video.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

elf has never looked good on home video, and the proof can be found on the included Blu-ray release from 2008, which had muted colors and was plagued by smeary DNR. At least, until NOW. Warner has gone back to the original camera negative (where possible) and created a new 4K scan. The 2160p HEVC-encoded transfer retains the film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (opposed to the Blu-ray’s 1.78:1 aspect ratio) and added HDR10 high dynamic range. The difference is night and day, as the UHD has bolder colors and a very noticeable increase in detail. The velvety textures of the North Pole costumes is much more evident now, as well as more distinct wood grains in the floor boards. Contrast is improved, with deeper blacks and stronger shadow detail, as well as brighter highlights that still reveal minute details in the snow drifts.

Audio: 4.5/5

While Warner could have simply taken the previous Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix from the Blu-ray (which always defaulted to lossy Dolby Digital) and re-encoded it for DTS-HD MA, it is rather obvious from the get go that some tweaking has been done to create a much wider, broader, and active 5.1 mix instead. It is not overpowering but is much more robust than the typical front-heavy comedy mix that was found on previous editions.

Special Features: 4/5

Kudos again to Warner for including the commentary tracks on the UHD disc. The rest of the extras can be found on the included 2008 Blu-ray release. For those who want a more insightful look at the difficulties in getting the movie made and released should check out the elf episode of the Netflix documentary series The Movies That Made Us.

UHD Disc
Audio Commentary with Director Jon Favreau

Audio Commentary with Actor Will Ferrell

Blu-ray Disc
Audio Commentary with Director Jon Favreau

Audio Commentary with Actor Will Ferrell

Documentaries (upscaled 1080p; 68:19): Includes Tag Along with Will Ferrell; Film School for Kids; How They Made the North Pole; Lights, Camera, Puffin!; That’s a Wrap…; Kids on Christmas; Deck the Halls; Santa Mania; and Christmas in Tinseltown.

Fact Track: A trivia subtitle track on Santa Claus, elves, and the making of the movie.

Focus Points: Look for an icon to appear on screen when this feature is activated, and it will take you out of the movie briefly to show a quick video.

Elf Karaoke (480i; 4:37): Three holiday songs – We Wish You a Merry Christmas, Deck the Halls and Jingle Bells – karaoke style.

Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 2:30)

Deleted/Alternate Scenes (1080p; 11:26): A total of eight scenes with optional commentary with Director Jon Favreau.

Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy (in UHD where available) on Movies Anywhere.

Overall: 4/5

The new 4K transfer for elf is a winner, as is the tweaked 5.1 mix. Otherwise, there is nothing else new with this release, not even a remastered Blu-ray to replace the aging and DNR-plagued 1080p transfer on that now 14 year old disc.

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Published by

Todd Erwin

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View thread (4 replies)

DaveF

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elf has never looked good on home video, and the proof can be found on the included Blu-ray release from 2008, which had muted colors and was plagued by smeary DNR. At least, until NOW. Warner has gone back to the original camera negative (where possible) and created a new 4K scan. The 2160p HEVC-encoded transfer retains the film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (opposed to the Blu-ray’s 1.78:1 aspect ratio) and added HDR10 high dynamic range. The difference is night and day, as the UHD has bolder colors and a very noticeable increase in detail. The velvety textures of the North Pole costumes is much more evident now, as well as more distinct wood grains in the floor boards. Contrast is improved, with deeper blacks and stronger shadow detail, as well as brighter highlights that still reveal minute details in the snow drifts.
Well, I was going to happily ignore this release since I bought the blu-ray in 2020. But now you’re telling me blu-ray looks terrible I need the 4K and thanks a lot! :)
 

dpippel

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Thanks for the review, Todd. I'm happy to hear that we have a shiny new transfer! Too bad the included Blu-ray is the old release though. I *really* wish that studios would stop doing this. If you've gone to the trouble of doing all that work for the 4K, just give us a Blu-ray derived from the same master!
 
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Leland T. Sandersen
Thanks for the review, Todd. I'm happy to hear that we have a shiny new transfer! Too bad the included Blu-ray is the old release though. I *really* wish that studios would stop doing this. If you've gone to the trouble of doing all that work for the 4K, just give us a Blu-ray derived from the same master!
Not sure why you need to include a Blu-ray in the package if you already have the 4K disc. How about a better price sans the Blu-ray? I think my old Blu-ray is good enough on this release. My wife says I have to cut down on my purchases. She says I have "a problem". I agree, I do have a problem, not enough cool 4K discs on my shelf!
 

Todd Erwin

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Not sure why you need to include a Blu-ray in the package if you already have the 4K disc. How about a better price sans the Blu-ray? I think my old Blu-ray is good enough on this release. My wife says I have to cut down on my purchases. She says I have "a problem". I agree, I do have a problem, not enough cool 4K discs on my shelf!
In most cases, as is likely the case here, the Blu-ray is included in order to have access to the special features.