Elf (2003)

Elf poster

Elf (2003) – After inadvertently wreaking havoc on the elf community due to his ungainly size, a man raised as an elf at the North Pole is sent to the U.S. in search of his true identity.


This post is part of Nostalgiathon 2012, a blogathon created by Andy at Andy Watches Movies and Misty over at Cinema Schminema. The purpose of Nostalgiathon is to relive things from your childhood through the eyes of an adult. For more information on how to get involved, click here.

I have been meaning to write something for Andy & Misty’s project for a while now, and whilst I fulfilled that aim the other day with Home Alone, I am here today doing another piece. The main reason, aside from joining a great fun blogathon that is, would be my need to categorise each review I post here and have it as part of a project. Otherwise I’m going against what I set out to do. Lots of people review the more mainstream films, better than I ever could, and so I stick with my horror niche. I can branch out with the IMDB Top 250 films, but as much as I love Elf I could never justify a reason to review it. Until now. And with Andy giving me the green light to do a second post for their project, I can share my thoughts on this movie, and keep my OCD happy by classing this as part of a blogathon, therefore giving me a reason to do it. Anyway, enough rambling :)


Whilst Home Alone is a film I grew up watching, it is tied as my all time favourite Christmas movie with Elf. Although Elf is a relatively recent movie, I feel it qualifies for this project since the term nostalgia describes a sentimental longing for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations. Elf definitely ticks all those boxes.

I’ll kick off with a few details about the plot for those that have maybe given this one a miss. Elf is a 2003 comedy film directed by Jon Favreau and starring Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, and Zooey Deschanel. The story is about a young orphan who ends up a stow-away one Christmas when he slips out of his crib and slips into Santa’s big bag of toys. When Santa finds out he has a new guest he leaves baby duty up to one of the older elves (Bob Newhart) who never found love and thus never was able to have the children he wanted so badly. When Buddy (Ferrell) gets older though he soon realizes he’s not like the other elves and this sends him on a journey to find his real parents. This journey leads him to Walter (James Caan), his father, a man who lands on Santa’s ‘bad list’ year after year. As Buddy strives to gain his fathers love and affection he must also try and resurrect the Christmas Spirit that so many have lost.

elf gif 3

The supporting cast here is all excellent. James Caan is a personal favourite anyway and I always love his work, but maybe with the funniest cameo comes from Game of Thrones star, Peter Dinklage. I will not give away what part this actor plays, but it is definitely not an elf. Do not call him an elf! But this movie is all about the performance of Will Ferrell. I know people don’t like him, but he makes this film work and elevates it above what it may well of ended up like without a lead so good.


Since I live in the UK, I was never really aware (well, I knew what it was, but not who was on it as such) of Saturday Night Live, and in particular Ferrell’s appearances on that. Whilst I had seen him in the Austin Powers & Zoolander movies in his various cameos, this was the first time I saw him as someone I really had to follow (film wise, not in a creepy way) and check out his work. Then along came Old School, Anchorman, Wedding Crashers etc and I became obsessed with his work and humour, and to me he is the funniest man working in Hollywood. Anchorman is quite easily the funniest film ever made in my opinion, and I always look forward to a new Will Ferrell flick. But I’m here to discuss Elf, so back I go. :)

Ferrell is superb here as Buddy. Sweet but hilarious, innocent with the odd filthy remark, I just laugh all the way through this. The jack-in-a-box scene still makes me tear up laughing, just a perfect moment.

elf gif

These laugh out loud moments bring me onto why this film is such a nostalgic treat for me. I first saw Elf on a flight to New York in 2004, and my wife had to tell me to ‘stop laughing so loud, it’s embarrassing‘. I figured watching a movie about an elf wouldn’t be much fun, but I loved James Caan, and I love New York, so figured what the hell, I have 8 hours to kill, I may as well watch it. I am beyond grateful I did, as this movie opened my eyes and gave me the delights of Will Ferrell and my all time (tied #1) favourite Christmas movie.

elf gif 2

I watch Elf religiously several times a year, but it is an essential watch at this time of year. I had an amazing holiday in New York, I always love going there, and seeing Elf reminds me of the amazing times I have had there. One day I will sit my unborn children down and show them the world of Buddy the elf. It is the perfect family film, but one that grown ups will find just as sweet and funny as kids do. I’m going to end with some trivia, as this isn’t really a traditional review so I may as well share a few of my favourite bits.


On the final day of shooting in New York, it was just the director, Will Ferrell, and a camera man driving around the city looking for locations to shoot. They would jump out and ask pedestrians if they would be willing to be extras for some quick cash while Ferrell paraded around acting like Buddy. Much of the montage when Buddy first arrives in New York was filmed then, such as when he is getting his shoes shined and jumping between traffic. 

The elf Ming Ming, who appears briefly in the beginning of the film, is played by Peter Billingsley, who starred as Ralphie Parker in the classic holiday film A Christmas Story. 

The sound effect used by the jack-in-the-box is the same sound effect used by the laughing hyenas at the Magic Kingdom at Disney World in Orlando, Fl. 


Well, that will do for this ‘review‘. Not a standard one I agree, just my thoughts on an excellent movie, and one not to be dismissed by Ferrell haters. He is very different here, toned down but still so funny. My all time favourite Christmas move, and it’s nice to be able to show it some love on my site. Thanks for reading :)

9 stars


  1. Love that you love this movie, it’s great when reviewers can swallow the usual cynicism that comes with being a critic and just enjoy such a heart-filled movie like this


    1. Cheers buddy. Sometimes we have to give in and just love something no matter what. Despite its pretty low IMDB score, rotten tomatoes still has it around 84% fresh I believe, so I know I’m not alone :)


    1. Cheers Ryan. Comedy is tricky as its so subjective, and we all find different things funny. Hence why I would never really try and review them. But as exceptions go, I figure I’ll just throw in what I like and hopefully some of it is coherent. Main aim is to talk about a funny movie which always brings back good memories, and Elf does that and then some! Glad you like it too buddy :)


  2. fucking awesome! I LOVE Elf – it’s def gotten a bad wrap with some critics, but it’s priceless for me. My daughter was 2 when this flick came out and she COMPLETELY fell in love with it the first time she watched it. It’s been a mandatory seasonal viewing for the family since, along with Scrooged and Black Christmas. :)


    1. Nice!! That’s the reaction i hope for when my (unborn) kids see it one day. It will be an event every year for sure!

      I’m posting my thoughts on Black Christmas very soon. Having just watched the original, I have to say it was excellent, way better than I’d hoped for and that may also become an every Xmas event.

      Cheers Buddy :)


  3. Awesomeness! My boyfriend and I watch this on Christmas day..so haven’t gotten there yet!
    You putting this on nostalgiathon made me realize that its been almost 10 years this movie has been released (I know its 9..but we’re close enough). Man, time sure flies by! I think it will end up being a timeless classic somewhere down the road, at least for now its holding up really well. This is probably the ONLY movie I like of Will Ferrell but I really love Zooey Deschanel so this one wins in that way. Jack in a box scene is quite hilarious. I’m all hyped up to see it now! :)


    1. It was much better than I had hoped it would be too. Although I like it a lot more than you do, at least you don’t outright hate it! I think it gets better with each watch, and is just a nice, funny film.

      Cheers for stopping by Morgan :)


  4. Continuing the Christmas movie viewing, I am watching “Three Godfathers”, the John Wayne-John Ford Christmas themed western. Loved the tribute to Harry Carey, Sr. in the opening scene. Holiday Cheers, Mate!! Garry


  5. When I first watched “Elf” I didn’t like it. I guess because it was during the high point of Will’s career that I became a little irritated with him. Then after a couple of years, I rewatched “Elf” and I loved it. It’s funny and cute at the same time. My favorite scene: any scene with Fazion Love. He and Will was too funny together!


  6. Fantabulous review!! Thank you so much (again) for participating in Nostalgiathon! I love old Will Ferrell but haven’t liked a lot of his most recent ones. Anchorman is DA BOMB. That movie never fails to make me *giggle*.


  7. I love Elf. I often hear people think that Will Ferrell is extremely creepy in this movie, but I absolutely adored his performance. It’s the same sort of plot as The Purple Rose of Cairo and Enchanted, but that fantastical fish out of water story is always entertaining. Nice review!


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