After he creeps out of his crib at the orphanage and into Santa's bag, Buddy is raised at the North Pole and works in Santa's workshop with the elves. Shocked when he finally discovers he's human, not elf, Buddy goes to New York in search of his father, who turns out to be in need of some Christmas cheer.
An uncanny gift for physical comedy helps Will Ferrell propel this festive family movie along, even though it's barely more than a string of sketches held together by a conventional plot.
His giant-among-elves character first amuses with his mere size, but in New York he's an outcast of a different kind: a wide-eyed, relentlessly cheerful child in a man's body whose elf-talk convinces everyone he's a nutjob.
The gags swing between mildly inventive and screamingly obvious, but even the latter are performed and timed well enough to draw a laugh. The plot, however, is so overshadowed by comic set-pieces that its ending fails to deliver the emotional impact it should. And it doesn't help that the supporting characters are either overexposed (we see far too much of Buddy's father at his work, for example) or underdeveloped (love interest Jovie is likeable but sidelined).
Ferrell's man-child invites sympathy and sniggers, making this amusing despite some flimsy plotting. Sight gags and a Santa-centred story should keep the kids happy, too.