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A movie directed by Jon Favreau

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Elf: Best Holiday Movie in a LONG Time

  • Jan 15, 2004
  • by
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 just want to laugh. Would you like faith restored in the human race? Then Elf is definitely the movie for you.

Believe it or not, Elf is a movie for absolutely everyone: men, women, boys, girls, anyone ages 4 – 104. It’s a romantic comedy that is without foul language, sex, and violence, yet still leaves audiences more than satisfied.

The Plot
Santa Claus (Ed Asner) makes his yearly rounds circa 1973. While leaving gifts at an orphanage, the sole infant in the orphanage crawls out of his crib and into Santa’s sack. Upon Santa’s return to the North Pole, the little stowaway crawls out of the sack and into Santa’s Workshop, in front of all of the elves. Thanks to the diaper that the baby boy wore, Little Buddy Diapers, the elves believed that his name is Buddy (a la Marty McFly being called Calvin Klein in Back to the Future). Buddy obviously needs a parental figure, so Papa Elf (Bob Newheart) volunteers to be Buddy’s adoptive father.

Buddy grows up believing that he is an elf. While he is 30, Buddy overhears two workshop elves talking about how buddy really is a human. Buddy talks to Papa Elf about this, who, in turn, tells Buddy the truth of his origins. Papa Elf tells Buddy who about his mother, who passed away, and his father, Walter Hobbs (James Caan), who is a publishing executive in New York City. Oh, to add a wrench to the works, Buddy’s biological dad is on Santa’s Naughty List.

Buddy heads to New York to bond with his real father. Unfortunately for Buddy, Walter isn’t quite so ready to bond with the long-lost son he knew nothing about. Thanks to Walter’s wife Emily (Mary Steenburgen) and son Michael (Daniel Tay), Buddy finds that bond with Walter. As a nice side benefit, buddy falls in love with an elf from Gimball’s, named Jovie (Zooey Deschanel).

When Santa gets into trouble during his rounds a couple weeks later, Jovie, Buddy and his family save the day.

The Actors
This is one of the best cast movies I have seen in a very long time. Will Ferrell is fantastic as Buddy the Elf. As a matter of fact, there is no other actor – not even Mike Myers – that would be able to pull off this role as well as Ferrell does. His childlike manner captures the persona of Buddy the Elf perfectly.

On the other end of the spectrum, James Caan is wonderful as the rotten Walter Hobbs. Caan captures the blatant disregard for humanity and all-around "Bah Humbug" sentiment towards the holidays. Cann also balances his reluctant love for his family, including his eldest son, with the same finesse he handles his nastiness and skepticism.

Bob Newhart definitely deserves a mention, as he is FABULOUS as Papa Elf. He is such a terrific contrast to Will Ferrell’s Buddy. Newhart really nails the loving father and chief elf role in one fell swoop. I just wonder what he did to prepare…

Mary Steenburgen shines as the lovely and joyful Emily. Her softness is an excellent balance to Caan’s hard edge. Daniel Tay is terrific as Walter’s neglected son starving for his father’s attention. Ed Asner is great as Santa Claus—you can’t even tell it’s him! Finally, of the main characters, Zooey Deschanel is good as Jovie, but I think it could have been cast better. A better choice may have been Kerry Washington (Bad Company, Against the Ropes). Washington would have been a better contrast to Ferrell and a bit more dynamic than Deschanel while maintaining the cute, elf-like qualities that Deschanel possesses.

Regarding the supporting cast, director Jon Favreau plays the doctor. It’s a small part, but I love when the director puts himself (or herself, as the case may be) into his (or her) film. Audiences can also find Andy Richter as Morris, one of Walter’s star writers, and funnyman Faizon Love as the Gimbel’s Manager.

The best performance, however, comes from the small powerhouse Peter Dinklage as famous children’s author Miles Finch. The scene between Dinklage and Ferrell is absolutely priceless. The entire audience was in hysterics as Miles Finch attacks Buddy for calling him an elf. Dinklage is terrific, and will hopefully appear in more and more films.

The Script
Writer David Berenbaum writes a flawless script with Elf. The dialogue is natural, even when it comes to the elves speaking amongst each other in Santa’s Workshop. Berenbaum nails Buddy’s childlike nature amidst cynical New York adults. The date between Jovie and Buddy is written expertly, and captures the different things that might appeal to a child that has never been to New York before.

Elf is truly one of the funniest movies – if not THE funniest – of 2003. The situations, the dialogue, the settings… Berenbaum offers audiences a well-rounded script on which a wonderful film is built.

The sets are really great. From Santa’s Workshop to everywhere Buddy’s adventures take him, the audience feels as though they are right there with him. Nothing looks fake, including Santa’s Workshop.

At one point, Buddy has a conversation with some of our favorite characters from the Christmas specials we all grew up with: Leon the Snowman, Mr. Norwahl, the Polar Bear Cub, the penguin… It really makes you believe that the characters truly exist. The superimposition of the characters onto the film is flawless.

The soundtrack is the best soundtrack from a Christmas movie in a very long time. The best song is a remake of "Baby It’s Cold Outside," sung by Zooey Deschanel and Leon Redbone (the voice of Leon the Snowman). You can also find a cheerful rendition of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," as sung by the entire cast of Elf. Even if you don’t see the film, this is a great soundtrack to own for the holidays.

Elf is a heartwarming film that will make you believe in Santa Claus once again. It’s a great movie for all ages and all occasions. If you haven’t seen it yet, do your best to find a theatre where it is still playing. You’ll want to see it more than once—heck, I did!


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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 …
About the reviewer
Candice Cain ()
Ranked #405
I own the Candy Cain Travel Co. in Brookhaven, NY. I am a certified Professional Bridal Consultant with the Association of Bridal Consultants and my agency is certified by IATA and CLIA. I specialize … more
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About this movie


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 ...
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Director: Jon Favreau
Release Date: 7 November 2003 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG
Screen Writer: David Berenbaum
Runtime: 97 min
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