Elf appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. This turned into an appealing image.
Sharpness felt positive. A few slightly soft shots materialized, but the majority of the film boasted nice clarity and accuracy.
No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, and edge haloes stayed absent. Grain felt light but natural, and print flaws failed to damage the proceedings.
With the holiday setting, Elf boasted a broad palette, and the disc made the hues look bright and bubbly. HDR added impact and warmth to the tones.
Blacks seemed rich and deep, while shadows were smooth and clear. HDR gave whites and contrast greater power and punch. Expect a solid visual presentation from the 4K.
In addition, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Elf provided a satisfying experience. While it lacked great flair and flash, the mix worked well for this film.
For the most part, the audio image remained biased toward the front channels. When it appeared, rear usage seemed pretty good, especially during the movie’s more active sequences.
However, those occasions occurred fairly infrequently. Overall stereo imaging appeared good, and the auditory impression remained reasonably broad and lively.
I found no issues related the quality of the audio, as the mix consistently sounded positive. Dialogue seemed natural and crisp, with no issues related to edginess or intelligibility.
Effects came across as realistic and clear, and they presented some very fine low-end material when appropriate. Explosions and big sounds like that appeared deep and rich.
Music sounded full-bodied and vibrant and also displayed solid bass. Ultimately, the soundtrack lacked the ambition to merit a grade over a “B”, but it seemed positive nonetheless.
How did the 4K UHD compare to the original 2008 Blu-ray? Though the 4K substituted DTS-HD MA for the BD’s Dolby TrueHD, both sounded similar and perhaps identical.
Visuals told a different tale, though, as the 4K easily beat the lackluster Blu-ray. The 4K looked better defined and showed stronger blacks and colors.
The 4K also lost the pervasive grain removal that marred the Blu-ray and came across as film-like. The 4K turned into a major upgrade.
On the 4K UHD disc, we find two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Jon Favreau, who offers a running, screen-specific track that provides a genial and reasonably informative chat.
During the North Pole sequences, he mostly focuses on the visual trickery used, but he branches into other areas once Buddy gets to Manhattan. We learn about the cast and character choices, cuts and story issues, locations and sets, influences and inspirations, and many general notes about the shoot.
At times Favreau meanders into story narration and general banalities, but those problems don’t occur often. Instead, he usually offers a fairly neat examination of the appropriate topics.
For the second track, we hear from actor Will Ferrell, who also tosses out a running, screen-specific discussion. He talks about why he took the project, his approach to the role, working with the other actors and some of the challenges related to visual effects, stunts and other elements of the shoot.
Those who hope for a rollicking, laugh-filled track from Ferrell will leave disappointed. He makes a couple of funny cracks but plays it surprisingly straight most of the time.
With or without the humor, this is an average commentary. Ferrell gives us decent insight into his approach to the character and tosses out some reasonably interesting glimpses behind the scenes, but I’m hard-pressed to cite anything terribly memorable. It’s listenable and that’s about it.
More extras appear on the included Blu-ray copy, where we get a fact track. This subtitle commentary claims to “reveal history, facts and other trivia relating to Elf and its story”.
And that’s what it does, as we learn a little about the cast, the historical elements connected to Christmas, and filmmaking techniques. The material seems sporadically interesting, but the factoids don’t pop up frequently.
I doubt many people will want to try to attend to the film itself and read the fact track at the same time, as it could become distracting. On the other hand, if you check out the movie just to examine the subtitles, you’ll feel irritated by the infrequent use of the feature. Chalk this up as a fairly spotty text commentary.
Next we locate a collection of eight deleted/alternate scenes. When viewed via the “Play All” option, they run a total of 11 minutes, 30 seconds.
These include an elf hockey game as well as extensions to segments like the one in which Papa Elf spills the beans about Buddy’s past, Walter’s meeting with a nun over financial strains, Buddy and Leon the Snowman, and Buddy’s first night at the Hobbs home. Some fun moments pop up here, so the clips are worth a look, although they don’t provide anything scintillating. (The Leon bit is cool to see partially because it shows the scene before effects added the stop-motion snowman.)
We can watch the scenes with or without commentary from Favreau. The director covers elements of shooting the sequences and also lets us know why the bits got the boot. He goes through the elements concisely and provides useful notes.
”Documentaries” contributes nine pieces. Tag Along with Will Ferrell runs seven minutes, two seconds as we follow the actor on a typical day. He goes through hair, makeup, wardrobe, shooting on the sleigh with Santa, in the Gimbel’s mailroom, and pickups for the snowball fight. It gives us a very entertaining look at the the various shoots.
Film School for Kids runs 20 minutes, 38 seconds. It includes shots from the set and many comments. We hear from Favreau, Ferrell, writer David Berenbaum, producers Todd Komarnicki, Shauna Robertson and Jon Berg, unit production manager Penny Gibbs, first assistant director Jim Brebner, second assistant director Andrew Robinson, second second assistant director James Bitonti, third assistant director Misha Bukowski, production assistants Tashanna Ducharme and Scott Spencer, key makeup artist Victoria Down, key hairstylist Sherrt Gygli, first assistant hairstylists Donna Bis and Ian Ballard, costume designer Lara Jean Shannon, director of photography Greg Gardiner, camera operator William Waring, second camera assistant George Majoros, dolly grip Greg Forrester, key grip Dillard Brinson, sound mixer David Husby, boom operator Kelly Zombor, stunt double Mike Carpenter, script supervisor Jessica Clothier, and video assist John Sanderson.
Though the title implies this will be a dumbed-down look at moviemaking, “Kids” actually provides as nice primer. It goes through a mix of crew activities and defines them nicely. The elements from the production continue to be illuminating, and we learn a lot of details about the creation of the flick. Adults should learn from this good program as well as younger ones.
Next we find the 11-minute, 31-second How They Made the North Pole. In it we get notes from Favreau, Gardiner, Shannon, production designer Rusty Smith, art director Kelvin Hummeny, lead carpenter Samuel Pritchard, head scenic artist Vaughan Baker, lead laborer Chad Calder, on-set dresser Patrick Kearns, property master Bryan Korenberg, on-set carpenter Mikal Williams, on-set painter David Pirrie, visual effects producer Joe Conmy, visual effects assistant Katie Quinn, visual effects supervisor Joe Bauer, They cover the visual design of the North Pole elements and their execution.
“Pole” goes through all the appropriate areas in this concise and interesting piece. I especially like the look at adapting things to make the elves seem tiny.
We get more about visual effects, we head to Lights, Camera, Puffin!. This six-minute, 37- second program we hear from stop-motion animators Charles and Stephen Chiodo.
They chat about their childhood interest in animation, character design, creating the figures, shooting amid live-action elements, and actually animating the pieces. I like the glimpses at the brothers’ childhood experiments, and the rest of the show presents another tight examination of its subject.
After this comes That’s a Wrap. In the 12-minute, 13-second piece, we look at post-production with Favreau, Conmy, Bauer, post-production supervisor Jay Vinitsky, editor Dan Lebental, visual effects editor Paul Wagner, visual effects supervisor Ben Girard, supervising sound editor John Leveque, supervising dialogue editor Kimberly Lowe Voigt, foley artists Jeffrey Wilhoit and James Moriana, supervising foley editor Lisa Varetakis, New Line music executive Bob Bowen, head orchestrator Brad Dechter, film score mixer Shawn Murphy re-recording mixer Jon Taylor, and composer John Debney.
They go through editing, visual effects, audio, the score and the premiere. Ditto my comments about the prior featurettes, as this one rips through the requisite elements well. It caps the series of programs nicely.
Kids on Christmas goes for six minutes, 32 seconds. It offers what you’d expect: a bunch of kids tell us about various aspects of the holiday. It’s very cutesy and virtually worthless.
Called Deck the Halls, the next featurette lasts 10 minutes, 26 seconds. It looks at the efforts people make to decorate their homes.
We hear from Californians in a community where pretty much everybody goes all out, as well as others in Massachusetts. The piece offers a moderately interesting look at the extremes of holiday decorating, though the woman who dresses as Frosty gives me the creeps.
Next we see Santa Mania. The six-minute, 30-second program shows us “Surfing Santa”, the creation of Santa costumes, and a massive Santa sculpture. As with “Halls”, this show provides a decent slice of the way the holidays impact on average folks, though in a quirky way.
For the final “Documentary”, we get the six-minute, 51-second Christmas in Tinseltown. Mostly via comments from honorary mayor Johnny Grant, it looks at historical Hollywood Christmas celebrations along with what the community does today. It fits with the other featurettes as it gives us a marginally intriguing piece.
In addition to the flick’s trailer, we find some Focus Points. These offer brief featurettes that appear as you watch the movie; a little disc icon appears on screen to prompt you to press “enter” and watch the snippet. We get 80 of these brief pieces.
Across these, we learn about makeup, costumes, props, sets, effects and animation, working with kids and animals, deleted scenes, stunts, music, editing and audio, the script’s origins and development, cinematography, views of the set, outtakes, and the film’s premiere.
Some of the tidbits come from featurettes found elsewhere on the disc; for instance, we see more of those grating kids’ thoughts about Christmas. We also get repeats of the deleted scenes, though at least these pop up at the right places in the movie.
Much of the content is new, though, which is good and bad. It’s a positive because it means that the “Focus Points” aren’t a redundant waste of time, but it’s a negative because the interface is such a drag.
On most WB-issued Blu-rays, you can access the “Focus Points” independently of the movie. Sure, you can check them out as the flick goes, but you can also get to them on their own.
For those of us who don’t want to sit through the film to get through them – and thus depart the story 80 fracking times - this is the way to go.
Without that option, it becomes a chore to wade through the “Focus Points”. I like the content, and the disc does make it a little easier to stick with them since you can advance from one to another when each clip ends; you don’t have to sit and wait for the next icon to get there.
Nonetheless, the execution left me with a literal headache. I like the content, but the ability to access it frustrates.
The package ends with “Fun ‘n’ Games”. Elf Karaoke lets you sing along with three different songs. Read-Along covers Buddy’s tale in text format. As with most features of this sort, you can read it on your own or check it out with accompanying narration.
By all rights, Elf should have been a crass one-note experience in tedium. However, the flick overcomes its inherent restrictions and turns into something charming and amusing. Much of the credit goes to a surprisingly delightful and charming performance from Will Ferrell. The 4K UHD presents very good picture and audio along with a strong collection of supplements. This becomes the best version of the film to date.
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of Elf