Open main menu

Elf is a 2003 American Christmas fantasy comedy film, directed by Jon Favreau and written by David Berenbaum. It stars Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, Mary Steenburgen, Daniel Tay, Ed Asner, and Bob Newhart. The story is about one of Santa's elves (Ferrell) who learns he is actually a human and goes to New York City to meet his biological father (Caan), spreading Christmas cheer in a world of cynics as he goes.

Elf
An elf stands between the letters "e" and "f".
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJon Favreau
Produced by
Written byDavid Berenbaum
Starring
Narrated byBob Newhart
Music byJohn Debney
CinematographyGreg Gardiner
Edited byDan Lebental
Production
company
Guy Walks Into a Bar Productions
Distributed byNew Line Cinema
Release date
  • November 7, 2003 (2003-11-07)
Running time
97 minutes
Country
  • United States[1]
LanguageEnglish
Budget$33 million[2]
Box office$220.4 million[2]

The film was released in the United States on November 7, 2003 by New Line Cinema. It received positive reviews from critics and grossed $220 million worldwide on a $33 million budget. It inspired the 2010 Broadway musical Elf: The Musical and NBC's 2014 stop-motion animated television special Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas.

Contents

PlotEdit

On Christmas Eve 1973, a baby boy crawls into Santa Claus's sack at an orphanage and is unwittingly transported back to the North Pole. When discovered at the workshop, the elves name him "Buddy" because he is wearing "Little Buddy Diapers", and he is adopted by Papa Elf.

Buddy grows up at the North Pole believing he is an elf, but due to his human size is unable to keep up with the other elves and demoted to the demeaning job of toy testing. When Buddy overhears that he is a human, Papa Elf explains that Buddy was born to Walter Hobbs and Susan Wells, and given up for adoption. Susan subsequently died and Walter, who now works for a children's book publisher at the Empire State Building in New York City, is unaware of Buddy's existence. Santa reveals, to Buddy's horror, that Walter is on the naughty list due to his selfishness, but suggests Buddy could help redeem him.

Buddy travels to New York where he has trouble adjusting to the customs of the cynical human world. Buddy finds his father at work, but Walter, incredulous, dismisses him as a christmas-gram sent by the Gimbels department store and has security remove him. Buddy is sent to Gimbels, where the manager also mistakes him for an employee. At the store's Santa Land, he meets Jovie, an unenthusiastic employee to whom he is instantly attracted. After hearing that Santa will be at the store the following day, Buddy spends the night decorating Santa Land. When Buddy realizes that the Gimbels Santa is not the real Santa, he confronts him and yanks the beard off his costume, resulting in a fight that lands Buddy in jail. Walter reluctantly bails him out and takes him to a doctor for a DNA test, which confirms that Buddy is Walter's son. The doctor convinces Walter to take Buddy home to meet his step mother Emily and twelve-year-old half brother Michael. Walter and Michael are put off by Buddy's odd behavior, but Emily insists that they care for him until he "recovers".

Michael becomes fond of Buddy after Buddy defeats a gang of bullies in a snowball fight and Michael encourages Buddy to ask Jovie on a date. During the date, the two fall for each other. Walter's boss, citing the failure of the company's most recent book, expects a new book by Christmas Eve, so Walter and his team hire best-selling children's author Miles Finch. Buddy interrupts a meeting between Walter's team and Finch to tell Walter of his newfound love and mistakes Finch, who has dwarfism, for an elf. Buddy pesters Finch into losing his temper and walking out on Walter. Angry over the setback, Walter harshly disowns Buddy. Buddy leaves a note for Emily and Michael, and wanders the streets, lamenting that he does not fit in anywhere.

On Christmas Eve, after finding Finch's notebook full of ideas, Walter and his team scramble to create a book to pitch. Walter's boss is prepared to hear the pitch when Michael arrives and informs Walter that Buddy is gone. Realizing he was wrong, and unable to reschedule, Walter resigns and leaves with Michael to find Buddy.

Santa's sleigh crashes in Central Park, attracting a large crowd. Buddy finds Santa, who explains that the sleigh has lost its engine and cannot fly without it, due to a shortage of Christmas spirit. Buddy finds the engine and is reunited with Walter and Michael. Walter apologizes to Buddy and accepts him as his son; Buddy then takes them to meet Santa. Michael takes Santa's list and reads it in front of television news cameras gathered outside the park, proving that Santa is real. The Central Park Rangers, whom Santa had placed on the naughty list, chase the sleigh as Buddy tries to reattach the engine. Jovie leads the crowd in singing "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," helping raise enough Christmas spirit to fully power the sleigh.

By next Christmas, Walter has started his own publishing company with a best-selling book about Buddy's adventures. Buddy and Jovie, now married, bring their newborn daughter Susie to visit Papa Elf.

CastEdit

VoicesEdit

ProductionEdit

DevelopmentEdit

David Berenbaum's screenplay underwent uncredited rewrites by Scot Armstrong,[3][4] Chris Henchy,[5] and the writing team of Adam McKay and Will Ferrell.[6][7][8]

Terry Zwigoff was offered to direct, but declined due to his commitment on another Christmas comedy of 2003, Bad Santa.[citation needed] Jon Favreau eventually directed the film.

CastingEdit

Jim Carrey was originally attached to portray Buddy, but turned down the role.[9]

FilmingEdit

 
Director Jon Favreau

Filming took place in New York City, as well as in Vancouver and at Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam, British Columbia.[10][11]

The film makes heavy use of forced perspective to exaggerate the size of Buddy compared to all the other elves. Stop motion animation was employed for certain sequences.[10]

Zooey Deschanel singing was not in the original script, and Favreau added it when he learned she was a singer.[10] When Buddy starts singing in the middle of Santaland at Gimbels, the lyrics were not scripted and Will Ferrell improvised the song on the spot.[12] Even though Buddy is an excellent gift wrapper, Will Ferrell is not, and needed someone else to wrap all the gifts in the movie.[12]

Post-ProductionEdit

Apart from snow, most of the computer generated imagery (CGI) in the film was created by Rhythm & Hues Studios.[13] Buddy's belch after drinking a two-liter bottle of Coca-Cola was real, as dubbed by voice actor Maurice LaMarche.[14]

ReceptionEdit

Box officeEdit

Elf grossed $173.4 million in North America and $47 million in other territories for a total gross of $220.4 million, against a budget of $33 million.[2]

The film opened at number two at the box office in the United States with $31.1 million, finishing behind The Matrix Revolutions, also in its first week.[15] It topped the box office on its second week of release, beating out Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. In the United Kingdom, it opened in second behind Love Actually.[16]

Critical responseEdit

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 84% based on 189 reviews, and an average rating of 7/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "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."[17] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 64 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[18] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.[19]

Roger Ebert gave it 3 out of 4 stars, calling it "one of those rare Christmas comedies that has a heart, a brain and a wicked sense of humor, and it charms the socks right off the mantelpiece."[20] Writing for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers gave the film 2 out of 4 stars, saying: "Ferrell makes the damn thing work. Even though he can't get naked or use naughty words, there's a devil of comedy in Ferrell, and he lets it out to play. Director Jon Favreau has the good sense to just stand out of his way."[21]

AccoladesEdit

The film was nominated for nine awards and won two.[22]

Won
2004 ASCAP award – Top Box Office Films (John Debney)
2004 Golden Trailer – Best Comedy
Nominated
2004 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Award – Favorite Movie
2004 MTV Movie Award – Best Comedic Performance (Will Ferrell)
2004 PFCS Award – Best Live Action Family Film and Best Use of Previously Published or Recorded Music
2004 Teen Choice Award – Choice Movie Actor – Comedy (Will Ferrell) and Choice Movie – Comedy
2005 Golden Satellite Award – Best Youth DVD

Critics' rankingsEdit

Elf is often ranked among the greatest Christmas films of all-time,[23][24][25][26] and since its release has joined the many films which air annually on television during the holiday season. In 2017, Fandango users rated Elf as the best Christmas film of the 21st century.[27]

Home mediaEdit

The film was released on DVD and VHS on November 16, 2004, and on Blu-ray on October 28, 2008. It is also available for the PlayStation Portable with Universal Media Disc. This is one of the only 2 DVD's to be PG rated under the Infinifilm label

MusicalEdit

A Broadway musical based upon the film ran on Broadway during the 2010 Christmas season. It was directed by Casey Nicholaw, with music by Matthew Sklar, lyrics by Chad Beguelin, and a book by Bob Martin and Thomas Meehan.

The musical officially opened at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on November 10, 2010, after previews from November 2, 2010. The cast included Sebastian Arcelus as Buddy, Amy Spanger as Jovie, Beth Leavel as Emily, Mark Jacoby as Walter, Matthew Gumley as Michael, Valerie Wright as Deb, Michael McCormick as Mr. Greenway, Michael Mandell as Store Manager, and George Wendt as Santa. It ran through to January 2, 2011.[40]

MusicEdit

The soundtrack was released on New Line Records in November 2003 in the United States[41] and in October 2005 in the United Kingdom.[42] It was certified Gold by the RIAA in April 2011.[43] Having sold 695,000 copies in the United States, it is the second best-selling film soundtrack/holiday album hybrid since Nielsen SoundScan started tracking music sales in 1991, behind only The Polar Express.[44]

  1. "Pennies from Heaven" – Louis Prima
  2. "Sleigh Ride" – Ella Fitzgerald and the Frank De Vol Orchestra
  3. "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" – Lena Horne
  4. "Sleigh Ride/Santa Claus Party" – Ferrante and Teicher/Les Baxter
  5. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" – Leon Redbone/Zooey Deschanel
  6. "Jingle Bells" – Jim Reeves
  7. "The Nutcracker Suite" – Brian Setzer
  8. "Christmas Island" – Leon Redbone
  9. "Santa Baby" – Eartha Kitt and the Henri René Orchestra
  10. "Winter Wonderland" – Leon Redbone
  11. "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" – Eddy Arnold
  12. "Nothing from Nothing" – Billy Preston

The score to the film, composed and conducted by John Debney and performed by the Hollywood Studio Symphony, was released by Varèse Sarabande.[45]

Animated specialEdit

Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas is an hour long stop motion animated musical television special based on the film and the musical of the same name. While Edward Asner was the only cast member from the film to reprise his role, the rest of the cast included Jim Parsons as Buddy, Mark Hamill as Walter Hobbs, Kate Micucci as Jovie, Rachael MacFarlane as Emily Hobbs, Max Charles as Michael Hobbs, and Gilbert Gottfried as Mr. Greenway. It was produced by Warner Bros. Animation and first aired on NBC on December 16, 2014. It features songs from the musical.

Possible sequelEdit

In September 2013, Mental Floss reported that Favreau was interested in making a sequel to Elf, entitled Elf 2: Buddy Saves Christmas, but it was later cancelled.[46] Later in December 2013, Will Ferrell stated that he doesn't want to make a sequel to Elf.[47] Despite this, during an interview in January 2016, Favreau stated that a sequel to Elf could possibly be made.[48] The next month however, Ferrell reiterated that it's unlikely that the sequel will happen and stated that he was not interested in reprising his role.[49]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Elf". American Film Institute. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "Elf (2003)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 7, 2016.
  3. ^ Falcon, Jesse (February 1, 2007). "Old School's Scot Armstrong". Cracked. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  4. ^ Fritz, Ben (June 14, 2005). "Inside Move: Lack of Will power won't stop 'Elf' sequel". Variety. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  5. ^ Riley, Jenelle (May 27, 2016). "Will Ferrell and Adam McKay Celebrate a Decade of Gary Sanchez Productions". Variety. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  6. ^ O'Hara, Helen (January 17, 2016). "Adam McKay: laughing all the way to the bank". The Telegraph. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  7. ^ Caro, Mark (December 6, 2013). "'Anchorman 2': The Chicago roots of Adam McKay". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  8. ^ Weiner, Jonah (February 28, 2014). "Anchor Management". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  9. ^ Mullins, Jenna (18 December 2014). "NEWS/ 56 Facts You May Not Know About Your Favorite Holiday Films". E! News. Retrieved 17 June 2015.
  10. ^ a b c Gary Susman (2013-12-24). "'Elf' at 10: Jon Favreau Reflects on Buddy's Magical Legacy | Movies News". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2014-02-21.
  11. ^ "Explanation of the sound effect". Archived from the original on 15 July 2011. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
  12. ^ a b "Will Ferrell in 'Elf" Interview". Vimeo. Retrieved 2016-04-21.
  13. ^ Snipes, Stephanie (November 7, 2003). "How to create an 'Elf'". CNN.com. CNN. Retrieved December 25, 2015.
  14. ^ "Maurice LaMarche interview on Talk Radio Meltdown - Explanation of Buddy the Elf's belch at 21:52". Talk Radio Meltdown. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  15. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for November 7-9, 2003". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
  16. ^ "Elf beats Crowe at US box office". bbc.co.uk. BBC News. 16 November 2003. Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  17. ^ "Elf at Rotten Tomatoes". Flixster Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 31, 2016.
  18. ^ "Elf". Metacritic. Retrieved May 31, 2016.
  19. ^ "Elf – CinemaScore". CinemaScore. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
  20. ^ Emerson, Jim (2003-11-07). "Elf Movie Review & Film Summary (2003)". Roger Ebert. Retrieved 2014-02-21.
  21. ^ Travers, Peter (November 7, 2003). "'Elf' review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
  22. ^ "Elf Awards". IMDb. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
  23. ^ "Christmas Movie Rankings: 10 Best Christmas Movies". Heavy.com.
  24. ^ "17 Favorite Christmas Movies". Huffington Post. December 24, 2012.
  25. ^ Dave Infante (December 18, 2015). "Best Christmas Movies including Home Alone, Scrooged, Muppet Christmas Carol". thrillist.
  26. ^ "The 10 Greatest Christmas Movies Of All-Time, According To British People". cinemablend.com.
  27. ^ "Elf Is the Top Christmas Movie of the 21st Century". 22 December 2017.
  28. ^ Reynolds, Simon (December 19, 2011). "Muppet Christmas Carol tops Digital Spy favourite Christmas film poll". Digital Spy. Hearst Magazines UK. Retrieved December 24, 2011.
  29. ^ "Elf #3 total film greatest xmas film of all time".
  30. ^ Nashawaty, Chris (2011-12-26). "Entertainment Weekly Greatest xmas movies of all time Elf #4".
  31. ^ "SFC Elf #4 Greatest christmas movie of all time". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  32. ^ "Guardian Greatest christmas movies Elf #4". HanMan.
  33. ^ Couch, Aaron. "Elf #6 Greatest xmas film of all time". The Hollywood Reporter.
  34. ^ Hughes, Mark. "Elf #7 Forbes best christmas movies of all time".
  35. ^ "Newsday Elf 7th best christmas film".
  36. ^ "Top 10 Christmas Movies". About.com. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  37. ^ "The 30 Best Christmas Movies Ever". empireonline.com. Bauer Consumer Media. December 2010. Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  38. ^ "Chicago tribune #17 elf greatest christmas film of all time". HanMan.
  39. ^ "Merry Christmas! The best Christmas movies ever". Daily News New York. 21 December 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  40. ^ Hetrick, Adam."Beth Leavel, Mark Jacoby and George Wendt to Star in Elf – The Musical on Broadway" Archived 2010-08-15 at the Wayback Machine. playbill.com, August 11, 2010
  41. ^ "Elf: Music From The Major Motion Picture". Amazon.com. Retrieved 26 December 2017.
  42. ^ "Elf Original Soundtrack". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
  43. ^ "American certifications – Elf: Music from the Major Motion Picture". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved December 7, 2014.
  44. ^ Caulfield, Keith (December 6, 2014). "Billboard 200 Chart Moves: 'Guardians' on Cassette Cashes In". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved December 7, 2014.
  45. ^ "Hollywood Studio Symphony". Retrieved 1 January 2010.
  46. ^ "55 Unfortunately Unfinished Films". September 18, 2013.
  47. ^ "Will Ferrell Says 'Bah Humbug' to 'Elf 2'".
  48. ^ "Elf 2 Could Happen Says Jon Favreau (Exclusive)".
  49. ^ Tilly, Chris (February 11, 2016). "Why Will Ferrell Won't Make Elf 2".

External linksEdit