Elf (2003) - Rotten Tomatoes

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 Newhart. ~ Matthew Tobey, Rovimore
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


James Caan
as Walter
Bob Newhart
as Papa Elf
Daniel Tay
as Michael
Faizon Love
as Gimbel's Manager
Peter Dinklage
as Mile Finch
Kyle Gass
as Eugene
Artie Lange
as Gimbels Santa
Claire Lautier
as NY 1 Reporter
Ted Friend
as NY 1 Anchor
Patrick Ferrell
as Security Guard
Patrick McCartney
as Security Guard
Annie Brebner
as Elf Student
Luke Paul
as Elf Student
Michael Roberds
as Disgruntled Cobbler ...
Peter Hulne
as Elf Twin
Patrick Hulne
as Elf Twin
Richard Side
as Elf Teacher
Kristian Ayre
as Foom Foom
Lorin Heath
as Perfume Clerk
Brad Turner
as Office Co-Worker
David Berenbaum
as Office Co-Worker
Brenda Crichlow
as Office Co-Worker
Oscar Goncalves
as Francisco
Murray Jack
as Man in Elevator
Mark Acheson
as Mailroom Guy
Paul Schofield
as Kid with Santa
Matt Walsh
as Himself
Gus Michael
as Witness
Terry J. Scarlatos
as Police Officer
Akeen A. Smith
as School Kid
Jane Bradbury
as Susan Welles
Leon Redbone
as Leon the Snowman
Ray Harryhausen
as Polar Bear Cub
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Elf

Critic Reviews for Elf

All Critics (188) | 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

Families have discovered how funny and how well this little film tells its King-sized holiday message: the only size that counts is how big your heart is.

Full Review… | November 30, 2015
Good Morning America

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

Full Review… | December 14, 2014
London Evening Standard

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

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

Buddy is a man raised who was by Santa and his elves up in the North Pole since he was a baby finally learns the truth about his life and sets off to New York City to find his biological father in this heartwarming, whimsical, and hilarious family comedy from Jon Favreau.

IThe premise is a fun take on the fish out of water tale, the script is mostly pretty sharp, and the central performance from Will Ferrell is one of the funniest comedic roles of all time. He absolutely sells it, and you honestly believe every minute of it, which is a Christmas miracle since it could have been so easy to mess up. He doesn't though, and it is an absolute joy to watch. James Caan is likewise pretty fun as Buddy's biological father Walter in the requisite Grinch/Scrooge type of role. Mary Steenburgen and Daniel Tay are decent as Walter's wife Emily and son Michael, and Zooey Deschanel is quite fine as Jovie- Buddy's love interest and co-worker at a department store. We also get Bob Newhart as Buddy's adoptive elf dad and Ed Asner as Santa. My favorite supporting character though has to be Faizon Love as the no-nonsense manager of the department store.

Like I said, the script is pretty sharp for the most part, but it's not perfect. The film is rather formulaic, and some of the stuff with Michael and Jovie fall a bit flat at times. The effects are mostly good, the music is fine, and overall this is a very delightful holiday film I solidly recommend.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Elf Quotes

Miles Finch: Call me elf one more time.
Buddy: He's an angry elf.
– Submitted by Danny O (2 years ago)
Jovie: What were you doing in the women's locker room this morning?
Buddy: I heard you singing.
Jovie: What about the fact that I was naked in the shower?
Buddy: I didn't know you were naked.
– Submitted by Chris G (3 years ago)
Santa: Sorry Buddy but... your dad is on the naughty list.
– Submitted by Vic P (3 years ago)
Buddy: [standing over another stall] Did you see these toilets they're ginormous!
– Submitted by Vic P (3 years ago)

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