You gotta give credit where credit's due. The story of Santa Claus has left room wide open for a number of spin offs and reinterpretation of lore about him. There are few rules in Santa lore, so you could come up with just about anything. L. Frank Baum created a radically different story around Santa Claus in 1902, but the more famous version features the basic concept of Santa making all his toys at the North Pole, assisted by elves, giving presents to good children all over the world on Christmas Eve, drawn by night on his airborne sleigh, drawn by eight (or nine with Rudolph) reindeer.
2003 offered a new spin on Santa Lore with Elf, a comedy starring Will Ferrell. Buddy was a baby in an orphanage who happened to crawl into Santa's (Ed Asner) sack on Christmas Eve. Being adopted by an elf (Bobby Newhart), Buddy grows up believing that he is also an elf, until he overhears that he's human (at age 30). Santa, however, has found Buddy's father Walter Hobbs (James Caan), but he's on the naughty list.
Buddy goes to New York City to reunite with his father, who doesn't believe that Buddy is his son, and Buddy briefly does a stint at Gimbels (which had been closed, so this movie dips a bit into a fairy tale of its own), where he meets an employee who is dressed as an elf for the season named Jovie (Zooey Deschanel). The two eventually date, though she doesn't believe in his story about being one of Santa's elves. Buddy also discovers that she loves to sing, but doesn't like to do it in public.
Walter eventually discovers that Buddy is indeed his son, and tries to take him. Buddy at least wins the affection of Walter's wife Emily (Mary Steenburgen) and bonds with his son Michael (Daniel Tay), but Walter's attempts to get Buddy a job in his publishing company prove disastrous, with Walter losing the company a major client. Feeling sorry, Buddy runs away on Christmas Eve.
In Central Park, Buddy finds that Santa's sleigh has fallen. The engine broke, and everyone's Christmas spirit (which keeps the sleigh flying) is at an all time low. Buddy starts repairs as Michael and Jovie stir up Christmas spirit by reading Santa's gift list and leading a crowd in singing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." Thanks to their efforts, Santa is able to get flying again.
The film ends by revealing that Buddy became a writer of children's books for Walter's new publishing company, and that Buddy and Jovie eventually marry and still visit Buddy's adopted father in the North Pole.
This is one of those fun Christmas movies that just revels in the joy of the holiday. Is it deep? No. It still does the job of encouraging goodwill, but the biggest things its inspired is airings on television, a Broadway musical, and an upcoming animated special.
I haven't watched a lot of recent Christmas movies, but looking at my stock of them on home video, this is the most recent film in my collection.