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Movies You Missed: 'Elf'


Now it's time for Movies We Missed: Holiday Edition.


WILL FERRELL: (As Buddy) I planned out our whole day. First, we'll make snow angels for two hours. And then we'll go ice skating. And then we'll eat a whole roll of Toll House cookie dough as fast as we can. And then, to finish, we'll snuggle.

SIMON: That sounds like a solid Saturday afternoon to me. But what's up for dinner?


FERRELL: (As Buddy) We elves try to stick to the four main food groups - candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup.

SIMON: A diet of champions.

The 2003 film "Elf" stars Will Ferrell as Buddy, the lovable human who was adopted by Santa's chief toymaker - that's a long story - so he's grown up at the North Pole believing that he is an elf. Just before his 30th Christmas at the workshop, Buddy learns the truth, and he sets out to find his biological father in New York City. High jinks ensue as this naive elf and fish out of North Pole waters tries to adjust to a human world that can glitter but also hurt. Tom Lovett is a community development planner from Owensboro, Ky. He's never seen "Elf" until we asked him to.

Mr. Lovett, thanks for being with us.

TOM LOVETT: A pleasure to be here.

SIMON: What do you usually feel about Will Ferrell movies?

LOVETT: Not a fan. I have had friends who have wanted to disown me over this. This is one of your deep, dark secrets. I don't find Will Ferrell funny, so "Elf" was just an easy skip for me.

SIMON: Aw. Well, OK. Now that you've seen it, what do you think?

LOVETT: Well, I'm going to give him credit on this one. It was a funny movie. I really enjoyed it. One of the things that Will Ferrell does that I'm not fond of - it seems like he's just completely over the top. It's just so frenetic. And this was really good. You know, he had this focused goal - to find his family and do a nice Christmas movie. And I thought it came off really well.

SIMON: According to film history, Jim Carrey was originally attached to the project. And I think he's a great clown. But Will Ferrell brings an earnestness and a gentleness to this role. Doesn't he?

LOVETT: Yes, I think he does. I mean, you just see - he's like a little kid. You know, I've got children. I remember that wide-eyed little kid thing. And he did that really, really well.

SIMON: Yeah. You watch it with your family?

LOVETT: I did. My boys and I watched it, and they laughed all through it. I laughed a little less. But, you know, we all - it was a real fun family thing last night.

SIMON: There are a lot of references - I think at the time they called them quotations - from other classic Christmas films. Peter Billingsley from "A Christmas Story" plays another elf. And there's the "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" Claymation figures.

Did you like those kind of nods?

LOVETT: Loved it. I'm approaching into middle age now, so I grew up on the "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and the "Frosty The Snowman" Claymation animation movies. I thought that was a lot of fun.

SIMON: What about the (laughter) - the chemistry between Buddy, the elf, and the character played by Zooey Deschanel who also works at the department store?

LOVETT: I thought that was when Will Ferrell really shone the most was when he is trying to bridge this little kid/elf nature that he has with being a 30-year-old male and finding himself - he's kind of attracted to a girl and trying to, A, figure out what that means and then, B, how to handle it. And she plays it well, too. You know, she could have - you know, she could've gotten all - hey, you're a creepy stalker. But she didn't. You know, she was willing to accept his kind of wide-eyed innocence. And I think that played really, really well.

SIMON: Do you think "Elf" will be a Lovett family staple for a few years?

LOVETT: We'll certainly make some time to watch it again. It's a pretty good film, and we enjoy it.

SIMON: Now, I have to tell you - I think this was the best movie Will Ferrell has ever made. But I like his other films, too.


SIMON: I am a sucker for Will Ferrell.

LOVETT: Well...

SIMON: Might there be a reassessment going on, Mr. Lovett?

LOVETT: You know, I don't know. I went to see "Anchorman." And truthfully, I thought the only joke in "Anchorman" was the joke that was perpetrated on me to get 7.50 out of my wallet...

SIMON: (Laughter).

LOVETT: ...To get me into that theater. And I just cringed through the whole thing. I just didn't like any of it.

And I think what he did in "Elf" - and this is going to sound odd to say - is he kind of downplays some of the mania. You know, like, when you see an actor like Will Ferrell or Jim Carrey bring that mania down some, you find that they actually have some serious acting chops and do a really good job. And I think that's what he did in "Elf." Now, whether I can go back and give some of the other movies - you know, "Ricky Bobby" or some of those others - a chance, we'll see.


SIMON: Tom Lovett speaking with us from Kentucky. And we ask you all to remember...


FERRELL: (As Buddy) The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.


LOVETT: (Laughter) That was a nice moment.

SIMON: Mr. Lovett, thanks so much, sir.

LOVETT: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN DEBNEY'S "PAPA ELF") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.