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Elf is a 2003 American Christmas comedy film directed by Jon Favreau and released in the United States on November 7, 2003.

It stars Will Ferrell as the film's central character "Buddy", and Ed Asner as Santa Claus. As an infant in a New York City orphanage, Buddy had crawled into Santa Claus's bag on Christmas Eve, and Santa unwittingly brought him back to the North Pole. Not knowing to whom the child belonged, the elves decided that he would be raised by them and that it would never be disclosed to him that he was really a human. However, when Buddy overhears the other elves talking about the fact that he is human, he goes to his adoptive father Papa Elf, for advice.

Papa Elf acknowledges that Buddy is, indeed, a human, and tells him the entire story of how he came to be raised by elves. Most important, he tells Buddy about his human father, Walter Hobbs, who lives in New York City. Buddy soon decides to head off on a quest to find his father, where much comedy ensues from the childlike and wholesome Buddy the Elf being a fish-out-of-water.

Elf begins with narration by Papa Elf (Bob Newhart), explaining the only three jobs available to an elf: making shoes for a cobbler; baking cookies inside of trees; and working in Santa's workshop. He also explains Buddy's presence at the North Pole — as an infant in an orphanage, he crawled into Santa Claus's sack of toys one Christmas Eve and was accidentally taken to the North Pole. Santa (Edward Asner) decides to allow the child, called "Buddy" after a label on his diaper, to be raised by Papa Elf, who has no children of his own.

As Buddy (Will Ferrell) grows, his height and poor toymaking skills raise awkward questions that his adoptive father continually waves away. Papa Elf also shows Buddy the jet engine he created in the 1960s to assist Santa's sleigh, which had run on the power of the Christmas spirit, until people began to doubt Santa's existence. After a string of accidents in which Buddy's non-elfness becomes obvious, Papa Elf finally breaks the news that he was adopted: his birth parents fell in love with each other when they were high school students in the 1970s, and nine months later, Buddy was born, in 1973. His late mother, Susan Wells, placed him for adoption at the orphanage. Buddy's now 46-year-old father, Walter Hobbs (James Caan), was never aware of Buddy's existence, and has since become a children's book publishing executive with offices in the Empire State Building; Walter is presently married to Emily (Mary Steenburgen), and has a 10-year-old son, Michael (Daniel Tay). However Santa informs Buddy that Hobbs is unfortunately on the Naughty List for being a cold, heartless grouch, but has confidence that Buddy will be able to change his Scrooge-like father into a kind and caring human being.

Buddy is overwhelmed by the news, and with information from Papa Elf and encouragement from a snowman (Leon Redbone), he sets off to New York to find his biological father. Upon arriving, he is puzzled with the culture of the city, but eventually finds his way to Walter's office, only to be thrown out as Walter has no idea who Buddy is and is otherwise pressured with getting a new book published before the end of the year. Buddy finds the department store Gimbels and comes across their Christmas display "The North Pole", and is subsequently mistaken as an employee by the department manager (Faizon Love). Buddy also meets fellow employee Jovie (Zooey Deschanel) and befriends her. When the manager says that Santa Claus is coming, Buddy assumes that the real Santa is coming and becomes very excited. After Gimbels closes for the night, Buddy secretly stays to decorate "The North Pole" for Santa's arrival. When the employees return, they are amazed at Buddy's work, and the manager fears someone is plotting to steal his job. When the store Santa (Artie Lange) arrives, Buddy spots him as a fake and gets into a fight around "The North Pole", destroying much of the decoration. He is arrested, and a restraining order is issued against Buddy.

Walter retrieves Buddy from jail, after getting a card from him that includes a picture of Walter and Susan, and learns through a paternity test that Buddy is indeed Walter's son. Walter allows Buddy to move into his apartment, hoping to get him to adjust to a normal life so that he can then move out on his own. Buddy quickly becomes friends with Michael, and Michael suggests that Buddy should go on a date with Jovie. Buddy takes the suggestion, and he and Jovie see several sites around New York City, and share a kiss while ice skating at Rockefeller Center. Buddy excitedly tries to tell Walter of his date, but barges in on a Christmas Eve meeting between Walter and a famous children's author and a little person, Miles Finch (Peter Dinklage) as a last attempt to get a book before Christmas; Buddy mistakes Miles as a fellow elf, and causes Miles to walk out on Walter. Walter tells Buddy to get out of his life, stating that he doesn't care if Buddy is crazy, an elf, or even that Buddy is his son, causing Buddy to run away. Michael returns home to finds Buddy's final message written on an Etch-A-Sketch, and runs to tell his dad what happened. Walter realizes what he has done, and promptly leaves in the middle of an important meeting with his boss to go find Buddy, resulting in his being fired from the publishing company.

Buddy, wandering through Central Park, comes across Santa's grounded sleigh. Santa explains that the engine broke off somewhere over the Park, and that without Christmas spirit, the sleigh will not fly. Walter and Michael, searching the park for Buddy, happen upon the engine, and they are shortly reunited with Buddy. Buddy works on repairing the sleigh's engine, while Walter and Michael, along with help from Jovie, attempt to distract the "naughty" central park rangers who have come to capture Santa Claus, as well as encourage everyone around to believe in the Christmas spirit. Santa and Buddy manage to take off just before the rangers arrive, but while the engine still fails, the others' efforts, including Walter's new belief in Christmas, have given the sleigh enough Christmas spirit to continue on its way and saving Christmas.

After Christmas, Walter starts a new publishing company, with their first book, "Elf", written by Buddy Hobbs, becoming an award winning children's novel. Buddy and Jovie get married and have a daughter named Susie (which is seen, stitched on her hat).
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CastWill Ferrell, Zooey Deschanel, Peter Dinklage, James Caan, Amy Sedaris, Faizon Love, Bob Newhart, Mary Steenburgen, Daniel Tay, Edward Asner
DirectorJon Favreau
Release Date:  7 November 2003 (USA)
MPAA Rating:  PG
Screen WriterDavid Berenbaum
Runtime:  97 min
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More Elf reviews
Quick Tip by . June 19, 2010
a must watch - belly laughs!
Quick Tip by . May 31, 2010
Great fun for the whole family!
review by . December 15, 2008
Buddy the Elf
Nowadays, it seems like just seeing Will Ferrell's name attached to a movie brings a good laugh. Although it seems like Ferrell plays the same character in every movie, some overzealous (insert noun) who thinks the world revolves around him. However, Elf differs then some of Ferrell's other movies, if not for the simple fact that it's so much cleaner then some of his other flicks.    Ferrell plays Buddy the Elf, a human-sized "elf" who just isn't very good at being an elf and …
review by . December 14, 2008
I am sitting in front of my television and Elf has come on for the the 20th time this holiday season. And like every time before I have sat glued in front of the television. Elf has become my new holiday tradition. It is that classic holiday movie that no matter how many times you watch it, it still makes you laugh and still touches your heart.     Before this movie I was aware of Will Ferrell, and I liked him, but after this movie I became a Will Ferrell fan. He played Buddy …
review by . November 17, 2008
Santa had a stowaway   He picked up in his sack   Because it was a one-way trip   There was no going back     Buddy thought he was an elf   And didn't realize   Why all the other little elves   Were less than half his size     Then one foggy Christmas night   Santa Claus confessed   Buddy wasn't who he'd thought   (He never would have guessed)     So …
review by . May 16, 2007
Elf is one of my all-time favorite Christmas movies.    Will Ferrell fans fall into two camps: the ones that appreciate his raunchy side, and those who find his goofy innocence charming.     I'm in the second camp.     My children and I quote Elf often. "Does somebody need a hug?" is a favorite.    But I know perfectly wonderful people who hated the movie.    If you go for art or brilliant acting/writing, …
review by . February 20, 2005
Will Farrell captures the essence of innocence as Buddy the elf in "Elf," directed by "Swingers" man Jon Favreau. From the beginning, this movie catches both the imaginations of young kids and the hearts of adults. It tells the story of the aforementioned Buddy, an orphaned human baby who is raised by Santa's elves at the North Pole, and his attempt to find his real father who just happens to live in New York.    Farrell is perfect as the innocent Buddy. He is captivated by everything …
review by . December 16, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
Buddy is an elf. Well, not really. Buddy is a human who grew up in the North Pole thinking he was an elf. One Christmas Santa was putting presents under the tree at an orphanage and little Buddy snuck out of his crib and crawled into Santa's sack. Santa didn't know about it until he got back home in the North Pole. By then, he couldn't take the baby back. They would have to wait at least a year. So a kindly Master Elf and his wife who had no children of their own, adopt Buddy and raise them as their …
review by . November 15, 2004
When I think of Christmas movies "It's a Wonderful Life", "A Christmas Story" and "National Lampoons Christmas Vacation" have always been the first to come to mind. I can now add "Elf" to that list of timeless classics. Will Ferrell is at the top of his game in portraying a child-like elf. It really is too funny!     Elf is a truly original spin on Christmas. Think about it... that is hard to do... be original about Christmas! "Elf" succeeds in bringing us a very funny movie …
review by . January 15, 2004
Pros: Excellent cast, wonderful story, all-around great film     Cons: While Deschanel is cute, the role of Jovie could have been cast a little better     The Bottom Line: You HAVE to see this movie, regardless of age, race, or religion. It's terrific. Best holiday movie in YEARS.     Are you looking for a great movie to take the whole family to? Perhaps you’re looking for a date movie that isn’t too cheesy or romantic. Maybe you …
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