Elf (2003)



Critic Consensus: A movie full of Yuletide cheer, Elf is a spirited, good-natured family comedy, and it benefits greatly from Will Ferrell's funny and charming performance as one of Santa's biggest helpers.

Movie Info

For his sophomore stab at directing, actor/writer/director Jon Favreau (Swingers, Made), took on this holiday comedy starring Saturday Night Live-alum Will Ferrell. Ferrell stars as Buddy, a regular-sized man who was raised as an elf by Santa Claus (Edward Asner). When the news is finally broken to Buddy that he's not a real elf, he decides to head back to his place of birth, New York City, in search of his biological family. Elf also stars James Caan, Mary Steenburgen, Zooey Deschanel, and Bob … More

Rating: PG (for some mild rude humor and language)
Genre: Kids & Family , Comedy , Special Interest
Directed By:
Written By: David Berenbaum , Jon Favreau
In Theaters:
On DVD: Nov 16, 2004
Box Office: $173.4M
New Line Cinema - Official Site


as Walter

as Papa Elf

as Michael

as Gimbel's Manager

as Mile Finch

as Eugene

as Gimbels Santa

as NY 1 Reporter

as NY 1 Anchor

as Security Guard

as Security Guard

as Elf Student

as Elf Student

as Disgruntled Cobbler ...

as Elf Twin

as Elf Twin

as Elf Teacher

as Foom Foom

as Perfume Clerk

as Office Co-Worker

as Office Co-Worker

as Office Co-Worker

as Francisco

as Man in Elevator

as Mailroom Guy

as Kid with Santa

as Himself

as Witness

as Police Officer

as School Kid

as Susan Welles

as Leon the Snowman

as Polar Bear Cub
Show More Cast

Related News & Features

Will Ferrell's 10 Best Movies
– Rotten Tomatoes

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Critic Reviews for Elf

All Critics (185) | Top Critics (45)

Ferrell is a hoot. So is much of this witty holiday family entertainment, which, up until the end, when the "true spirit of Christmas" must be reaffirmed, happily favors slapstick over treacle.

Full Review… | December 14, 2014
Top Critic

Sure, Elf feels a little too feel-good at the end, but what do you expect? It's a Christmas movie! Anything else would be the cinematic equivalent of finding coal in your stocking.

Full Review… | December 4, 2013
Associated Press
Top Critic

The cast wrings laughs out of David Berenbaum's script as if it were a damp washcloth, but even they have trouble selling frenetic button-pushing as the Christmas spirit.

Full Review… | December 4, 2013
AV Club
Top Critic

A disarmingly funny holiday comedy.

Full Review… | September 7, 2011
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

While his plotting may leave a little to be desired, Favreau directs with speed, humour and efficiency.

Full Review… | December 14, 2014
This is London

Raise a glass of cheer to Ferrell and Favreau. They might not have created a full-scale holiday classic here, but they've certainly given us a fresh, sparkly new bauble to hang on our perennial tree.

Full Review… | December 14, 2014
Tulsa World

Audience Reviews for Elf

Oddly executed plot along with a joyously flare makes this Christmas comedy a success. Elf is the typical holiday film that's entertaining and strong, all thanks to a vibrant Will Ferrell. 4/5

Eugene Bernabe
Eugene Bernabe

Super Reviewer

'Buddy the Elf, what's your favorite color?'

So a baby 'Buddy' climbs into Santa's sack and is whisked away to the North Pole by accident. Upon this discovery Santa decides to allow 'Papa Elf' to raise and look after him. Not too sure why they just didn't take him back to the orphanage where he crawled into the sack, seeing as they know he came from there. I guess him being an orphan it didn't matter?.

From here on Buddy grows up at the North Pole as a worker in Santa's workshop. He soon discovers by mistake that he is in fact human and not an elf (elfling?), so off he goes to New York to find his dad. Turns out Papa Elf knew all about his mum and dad and what happened to them...somehow, handy huh. Is that elf magic or Christmas magic that enabled Papa Elf to know everything? or am I missing something here.

So lets switch off the cynical part of my brain for a moment. The start of this film is a typical Xmas setting and scenario yes...but its so damn charming cozy and delightful you can't not love it. I mean sure you can't really go wrong with Santa's workshop at the North Pole really, but the added gem of seeing the odd bit of classic stop motion animation on one or two cheerful little characters really added another dimension to the whole sequence. It all looked like a whimsical children's story book, a snowy happy world with cutesy fantasy characters plodding around. Arctic Puffin and snowberries? adorable!!.

Once we reach New York and the real world the tone shifts to that classic American Xmas movie magic type scenario which we all know and love from various other movies. And what better setting for a cold wintry Xmas tale than New York. Yeah you know straight away all the famous landmarks and stores you'll be seeing, we know how this goes...but does it get old? no, never. New York is probably one of the most atmospheric places in the world at Xmas.

'I passed through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and then I walked through the Lincoln Tunnel'

This is basically a pure unadulterated Ferrell show, the whole thing is all about him as the innocent sweet childlike elf completely out of place in a dark sinister world. You have the obligatory love/hate issues with his real father played grumpily by Caan to great effect (you can feel the sense of shame and disdain he gives off for Buddy), all this of course plays out exactly how you think it will right from the start. Then you have all the visual tomfoolery that Buddy serves up as he comes to terms with reality and not the candy cotton world he's used to.

At no point did I actually get tired or bored of Ferrell and his cherub-like virginal antics. It is utterly predictable hokey Xmas pantomime guff of course but its just so enchanting and visually pleasing you can't look away. Everywhere he goes he elaborately decorates with Christmas cheer, baubles and shiny trinkets, he's like the Xmas monster. Some of the scenes where he learns about 'human' ways and everyday things/objects are highly amusing despite being so simple and kinda cheesy.

The board meeting where Buddy comes across the rather small elf-like Mr Finch (who is actually a little person) is hilarious. The way Buddy talks to the guy as if he were a very young child is easily a laugh out loud moment (must have been a South pole elf). I must also mention the brilliantly done forced perspective we see here and there. It looks like CGI but apparently its not, very clever and nice usage of an old trick.

This is probably one of Ferrell's best films and best performances...strange as it may seem. The whole idea is completely not original and is stuffed to the gills with every Xmas cliche you can think of. The only reason this film works is because of the infantile character that is Buddy the elf...errr human. The ending is totally sappy and cringeworthy but it still doesn't stop this Christmas juggernaut of yuletide spirit.

'Oh, I forgot to give you a hug!'

Phil Hubbs

Super Reviewer

One of the better Christmas movies. This is pretty cute and Will Farrell plays his adult moron (sorry, elf) role well. I love Zooey Deschanel as well - I would watch this just to hear her sing Baby it's Cold Outside. (I was so disappointed that on the She & Him Xmas album, the guy does the lead vocal on that song).
I pretty much hate kids movies, but I have watched this one many times and enjoyed it.

Nicki Marie

Super Reviewer

Elf Quotes

– Submitted by Danny O (16 months ago)
– Submitted by Chris G (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Vic P (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Vic P (2 years ago)

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