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1st Annual Christmas Special: Elf

This Christmas, discover your inner elf.

Elf is a 2003 Christmas comedy film directed by Jon Favreau, written by David Berenbaum, produced by New Line Cinema and Guy Walks Into a Bar Productions, and distributed by New Line Cinema. It stars Will Ferrell and James Caan. It was not nominated for any Academy Awards.

"Buddy the elf, what's your favorite color?" - Buddy the Elf


When a baby sneaks into Santa's sleigh on Christmas, Santa brings him back to the North Pole unknowingly. Santa and his elves decide to keep the child. Thirty years later, the child has become an over-sized elf named Buddy that doesn't know he's actually human. When he finds that out, he goes on a search for his real father in New York. When he learns that his father is on the naughty list, he's got to turn him around to the nice list and reunite with a happy family.

How Elf Got Made

In 1993, David Berenbaum was a struggling screenwriter. He hadn't really written any good scripts, but he came up with an idea for Elf and ran with it. After the script was written, the studio looked to cast Buddy the Elf. Jim Carrey, who would end up playing The Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, was first picked to play Buddy the Elf, but was eventually replaced by Will Ferrell.

Elf was still a Christmas comedy movie, but after multiple rewrites, the initial script was much darker than the final product. According to Jon Favreau, the original script probably would've been rated PG-13 instead of PG. He didn't want to do the movie, but was interested in working with Will Ferrell.

Favreau was asked to rewrite the script. As a kid, Favreau had been a big fan of the Rankin/Bass animated Christmas specials, such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. As he was rewriting the script, he made the decision to direct this movie and make a lot of homages to those Rankin/Bass specials. In the film, when Buddy is in the North Pole, there's a few animals as well as a snowman that he talks to before he leaves to NY. The animals are made of clay, which is the style of Rudolph, and the snowman that he talks to is actually directly from Rudolph.

Favreau made the movie much lighter and allowed for a PG rating.

The film was shot mostly in New York (duh). Favreau used a lot of forced perspective, where he places the camera in a certain spot so that things look bigger than others. In those scenes where Ferrell looks much larger than the other elves, there's no CGI. It's just Favreau being a good director.

A lot of this movie is improvised, which is no surprise, because Ferrell is a master of improv.

Elf was released in 2003 and is considered one of the best Christmas movies ever.

Why Elf is a Christmas classic

Elf is the pinnacle of Christmas movies. Whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, etc., Christmastime is a time of family, fun, and cheer. I myself do not celebrate Christmas. But I love Christmastime. And Christmastime is meant to be full of joy and laughter and family. And Elf embodies all of that.

From the light-hearted tone to the meaningful story to the hilarious comedic moments from Will Ferrell, this movie is so good. Everyone I know loves Elf. Even my friends who don't watch any movies have seen Elf and adore it. It's one of those movies that is universally liked by everyone.

If you are in the mood for a good laugh and a good time spent with your family, just turn on Elf. I watch it almost every year around Christmastime (along with Home Alone), and I love it every single time. I loved it when I was four and I love it now. Whenever I am able to do the series on my favorite movies, this will definitely be in there.

My favorite thing about Elf is easily Will Ferrell. Will Ferrell is one of my favorite actors. He's had plenty of iconic roles, from Ron Burgundy to Magatu, but I think Buddy the Elf is arguably his best performance. He is so funny as this naive, child-like man that thinks he's an elf. He's smiling throughout the entire movie. Every time he does something that evokes a negative reaction, he apologizes. Buddy seems genuinely intrigued by literally everything, from spinning doors to coffee to work clothes. And Ferrell just plays all of that with this immature sense of wonder that I absolutely love.

I think that the story is fabulous. It's a funny idea for a story. How would a Christmas elf react to being in the busy and loud streets of New York? Well, apparently, he'd cause a lot of chaos. The script thinks through almost every scenario that an audience member would think through. If it's Christmastime and Buddy was walking around a Christmas store in full elf dress, he'd be mistaken as an employee. Even though he isn't a good toymaker compared to other elves, he would be compared to humans. If there was a fake Santa, he'd probably mistake him for a real Santa. If he saw someone that looked shorter, he'd mistake them for an elf. It's just funny, somewhat episodic things like that that make this movie great.

Elf: Cultural Impact

As I said before, as soon as it was released in 2003, Elf received positive reviews and was immediately considered one of the best Christmas movies ever. It succeeded at the box office, grossing $223.9 million dollars against a $33 million dollar budget. The film currently holds an 85% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7/10 on IMDb.

When film or pop culture magazines rank Christmas movies, Elf usually appears in the top ten. Sometimes, it will get into the top five. Critics and audiences alike praised the film for its light, fun vibe and Ferrell's performance.

The film airs annually around Christmastime. I'm sure if you were to turn on the TV right now, you could find Elf on a million stations. It's an iconic Christmas movie. Most everyone agrees on that front.

A sequel has been talked about by Favreau, but Ferrell has refused to do it multiple times, stating that he doesn't want to do sequels unless there is a story that he truly thinks could work. This feud has been going on since the movie was released. Ferrell has constantly turned down huge chunks of money. James Caan, Ferrell's co-star, reiterated recently that a sequel will not happen because Favreau and Ferrell don't get along.

Final Score

Elf is one of the great Christmas movies of all time and really one of the great comedy movies of all time. Along with Home Alone, it is my personal favorite Christmas movie.

Of course, it gets a Sweet. Age range is 5+.


Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad)

Moldy (Terrible)


Fun Factor: 9.5/10

Acting: 9/10

Story: 9.5/10

Characters: 9.5/10

Quality: 9/10

Directed by Jon Favreau

Rated PG for some rude humor and language

Released on November 7, 2003

1 hour and 37 minutes

Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf

James Caan as Walter Hobbs

Zooey Deschanel as Jovie

Daniel Tay as Michael Hobbs

Ed Asner as Santa Claus

Mary Steenburgen as Emily Hobbs

Bob Newhart as Papa Elf

Faizon Love as Wanda

Peter Dinklage as Miles Finch

Amy Sedaris as Deb

Michael Lerner as Fulton Greenway


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