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Still shot from the movie: Elf.

Elf

Some people stand out in a crowd -- like Buddy (Will Ferrell), the only human being at the North Pole. Accidentally brought home by Santa, the elves want to send the growing problem back to look for his real family.

Overall Grade: B+
Violence: B+
Sexual Content: B+
Language: B+
Drugs/Alcohol: B
Release Date: 06 Nov 2003
Run Time: 97
MPAA Rating: PG

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In-Depth Review

Some people stand out in a crowd. For Buddy (Will Ferrell), being the only human at the North Pole is a towering problem. When he was a baby, Santa accidentally picked him up one night while delivering presents to an orphanage. Now he is a growing concern within the elf population at the workshop. Detecting his good heart and desire to learn just aren't enough to make him an efficient toy builder (along with the fact he no longer fits the furniture), Buddy yearns for his real family.

Seeking advice from the head elf (Bob Newhart), Buddy learns his mother has passed away but his father, a workaholic children's book publisher, is living in New York City. Setting off to uncover his past, he arrives in the Big Apple wearing his complete elf ensemble. After hunting Dad, Buddy also finds he has a step-mom (Mary Steenburgen) and a ten-year-old half-brother (Daniel Tay).

Needless to say, it takes some convincing before this father believes the man in yellow tights is really his son--let alone a visitor from the North Pole. Finally agreeing to bring him home, the elf realizes his family, and the rest of New York City, are in no mood to be Christmas cheery.

This lack of belief in Santa has left Mr. Claus (Edward Asner) looking for new ways to fuel his sleigh. Originally propelled by Christmas spirit, he's resorted to a jet engine to give the reindeer the needed boost. Yet even that solution is having difficulties. With the Clausometer (the Christmas spirit gas gauge) reading empty and the jet running poorly, the whole shebang crash lands in Central Park on Christmas Eve.

This movie provides a nice mix of fun and frolic with only a skiff of content in all of our categories. Both Asner and Newhart fill their roles like the true professionals they are. The jolly man is loving but tough and focused on his job of getting those presents out each year. Likewise Newhart plays his typical role, trying awkwardly to explain to Buddy why his life must change. Primary to this movie's success is Will Farrell's convincing and funny performance--especially as he becomes accustomed to big city life.

Marketing the magic of Christmas to an increasingly cynical young audience is a tough challenge, but somehow Elf pulls it off quite well. Kids will love watching Buddy chow down on M&Ms, syrup, and a huge assortment of sugary condiments for breakfast. Teens will find the innocent elf's stumbling through NYC humorous. And adults will yearn for the innocence they once had as children when this time of year truly did hold magical wonder. That combination will likely put Elf on the "Favorite Christmas Movies" shelf of many homes.

Discussion Ideas: Talk About the Movie...

Having an orphan find their family is a very popular movie plot. Can you think of a few? Why do you think so many stories use this setup?

Does your family know of anyone who has recently moved into your area from a very different place? Although the culture shock Buddy went though while trying to fit into NYC life is an extreme example, do you know someone struggling with similar issues?

Video alternatives

Believing in the magic of the season are themes also found in Miracle On 34th Street, and The Santa Clause (1 and 2).

Home Video Notes

Home Video Notes: Elf: 10th Anniversary Edition

Release Date: 5 November 2013

Elf releases in a 10th Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray.

Home Video Notes: Elf: Ultimate Collector’s Edition

Release Date: 26 October 2010

Elf releases to Blu-ray in an Ultimate Collector’s Edition. Bonus extras include:

- Audio commentaries by Director Jon Favreau and Actor Will Ferrell

- Production featurettes: Tag Along with Will Ferrell, How They Made the North Pole, Lights Camera Puffin and That’s a Wrap.

- Film School for Kids featurette: Kids on Christmas, Deck the Halls, Santa Mania and Christmas in Tinseltown.

- Deleted/alternate scenes

- Elf Karaoke

- Trivia Track

- Focus Points

- Theatrical trailer

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About the Reviewer: Rod Gustafson

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