Movie Review

ELF

MPAA Rating: PG for some mild rude humor and language

Reviewed by: Chris Monroe
STAFF WRITER

Better than Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Family
Genre:
Comedy
Length:
1 hr. 35 min.

Starring: Will Ferrell, Edward Asner, Mary Steenburgen, James Caan, Bob Newhart | Directed by: Jon Favreau | Produced by: Jon Berg, Todd Komarnicki, Shauna Weinberg | Written by: Jon Favreau, David Berenbaum | Distributor: New Line Cinema

Copyright, New Line Cinema

ELF is likely to become a Christmas-time classic and family favorite. Adults and teens that expect “Elf” to be totally corny are going to be pleasantly surprised. The film is genuinely funny, and even touching at times. Although “Elf” certainly doesn’t recognize Christ in Christmas, it is refreshing to see a movie that skillfully provides good, clean humor to entertain people of all ages and promotes some positive family values.


Discover answers to your questions about the hows and whys of Jesus Christ’s birth, common misconceptions and much more! See ChristianAnswers’ informative site about Christmas

Copyright, New Line Cinema
Copyright, New Line Cinema
Copyright, New Line Cinema
 

See our INTERVIEWS with the cast/crew of this film

See our EXCLUSIVE interview with Elf’s co-producer, Christian Todd Komarnicki

As usual this year, Santa Claus is coming to town, but before he does, so is an innocent, six-foot three-inch tall, wide-eyed, loveable, pure-as-the-driven-snow Santa helper, whose gift is not a sleigh full of material goods but what people need even more this season: a dose of Christmas spirit. “Elf” delivers a fair amount of holiday cheer, along with a host of homages to tales from Christmas Past and a sack full of humor.

Raised by Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) and Santa Claus (Ed Asner), Buddy (Will Ferrell) leaves his family of elves at the North Pole and ventures into its antithesis—New York City—in search of his biological father, Walter Hobbs (James Caan). The contrast between these two settings, as well as between the trusting, child-like character of Buddy and the jaded, cynical businessman character of Walter, sets up most of the comedy for this fish-out-of-water scenario. The script is rooted in comedy and nearly every scene plays for a laugh, but eventually weaves into a well-rounded, family-friendly film that’s hoped to fit into the cannon of Christmas classics.

Director John Favreau (“Made,” “Swingers,” “Rudy”) has “taken a few clubs out of his bag” in order to make this film. Walter Hobb’s Scrooge-type character is the roughest around the edges, which shows in some of the language he uses. The film is rated PG for mild rude humor and language. Apart from father’s bad attitude (and perhaps a few other isolated incidents) the worst language you’ll hear in this film is “h*ll” and “up yours” which are both said twice as an angry exclamation.

Buddy’s naivet and simplicity also provide many scenarios for him to unintentionally misbehave. For example, Buddy hears his friend, Jovie (Zooey Deschanel) singing in the shower and goes to listen to her. When she discovers he is in the bathroom, she confronts him and tells him to leave. Similarly, Buddy literally drops his pants in the kitchen when Walter tells him to “lose the tights,” and later Buddy gets drunk with a co-worker at his dad’s company when he adds liquor to his coffee thinking it is a kind of sweetener. The faux pas of each situation is intended to be humorous due to Buddy’s innocence.

Whether or not you support the idea of Santa Claus at Christmas, this film at least uses it to promote a clear biblical concept: faith. At one point, Santa’s sleigh is having trouble flying due to people’s lack of Christmas spirit. Seeing that the “Clausometer” (instrument that measures Christmas spirit) is low, Santa enlightens us with the theme of the story saying, “Christmas spirit is about believing, not seeing.” This is a simple definition of faith and the idea plays out through the rest of the film until its climax. [Learn about the real meaning of Christmas]

“Elf” appeals to kids, as well as to the “kid” in each adult. There is a lot of slapstick humor, but overall “Elf” inspires us to think about what true goodness can do to affect even the most hardened people.

See our INTERVIEWS with the cast/crew of this film, including Christian Todd Komarnicki (producer)

Year of Release—2003


Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—My family and I enjoyed “Elf” very much, even though we never stray from the true focus of Christmas. We laughed on the way home as we kept thinking about the movie. Other than a few words, it was a very clean film. and I was very pleased that the writers chose to keep it that way. If you take little ones to see the film it might be good to remind them beforehand that Santa is only pretend.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—Star T., age 44
Positive—Fabulous! Fun! Fantastic costumes, props and scenes. Didn’t hear the couple of bad words. Just laughed, laughed, laughed!!! Finally, a good, decent movie for all. Taking my 75 mother soon to see this!
My Ratings: [Good/5]
—Kathleen, age 50
Positive—Great Movie! If you love that “Will Ferrell” style humor, but wonder if it’s clean enough for family viewing, rest assured. My 7 year old and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story line is easy to follow, but not at all boring. Unlike many “family” films these days, this film pushed NO agenda—nothing about sex, divorce, diversity, tolerance, rebellion, or witchcraft. Although it’s a pro-Santa film, the tale doesn’t focus on the role of Santa much at all. Rather, the spotlight shines on the wonderfully portrayed childlike Elf and the love and affection that shows to every person the comes into his life. To sum it up, the movie leaves you feeling good about Christmas.
—Diana, age 34
Positive—My family and I enjoyed “Elf” very much, even though we never stray from the true focus of Christmas. We laughed on the way home as we kept thinking about the movie. I did want to point out vulgar language not mentioned in the review. The phrase “up yours” was said twice during a conflict. We heard the swear word “Hell” also. Other than that it was a very clean film and I was very pleased that the writers chose to keep it that way. If you take little ones to see the film it might be good to remind them beforehand that Santa is only pretend.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—Star Taylor, age 44
Positive—Based on the review I heard on a non-Christian radio station saying this was a wonderful family film and destined to be a classic, we went today as a family for the first time in ages. I more or less dragged hubby along, but he loved the movie as much as I did. Clean, innocent, funny and plenty of references to the cheesy 60’s Christmas specials I remember so well. My girls, 9,9 and 8 loved it also. My 5 year old son only wanted to go out and play video games in the lobby, so I think this was above his head, but he seldom sits still. Afterwards, after the movie over a meal, hubby and I kept snickering and going over favorite parts in the movies. I’d love to see it again (my girls are already begging me to take them) and a definite must buy for the DVD collection.
My Ratings: [Good / 5]
—Debbie, age 45
Positive—I went with my sister and her kids and my 8 year old and we all absolutely loved this film! My husband is a minister in a baptist church and we are going to see it today, but I know he will love it—he is very excited about seeing it with us. We are not as strict as some with the movies we let our son see, and this one was one of the most wholesome movies he’s seen this year. In an era where all movies are somewhat objectionable, this one was not at all to myself or my family.We will be first in line to buy it when it comes on DVD.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
—Heidi, age 27
Positive—With all the movies out that are so depressing and cruel, this was just the movie I needed. Movies have just been so depressing; I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie that had a lot of hope in it. That was until ELF, it was so great to see a movie that had so much hope, love and happiness in it. Even in the saddest spots in the movie there was always hope. Exactly like with Jesus, during our toughest times in life there is always hope, faith and love. This movie was a refreshing taste of this and I really would encourage people to go support this type of movie.
My Ratings: [Good / 4]
—Christine, age 18
Positive—I absolutely loved it. The best thing that I could say about it at the end was that it was refreshing. This movie provided humor that was not objectionable or off-color. Although it did not focus on the true meaning of Christmas, the overall message was good. It focused on friendship, love, family and hope. I would encourage people to see this movie. Hollywood needs to be made aware that movies like ELF will do well.
My Ratings: [Good / 5]
—Erin, age 18
Positive—While Mr. Farrell has done some questionable films in the past, our entire family saw this film and thoroughly enjoyed it. I believe it possible that a comment or name calling incident may be raise an eyebrow, however, there is nothing offensive about this movie. It is nice to see Hollywood beginning to realize it is indeed possible to make movies without the innuendo, sex related humor, and offensive language and still have it be a hit.
My Ratings: [Good/4]
—Jim, age 41
Positive—From a Christian point of view, I thought this movie was very enjoyable, fun to watch and entertaining. I, like many people, thought this movie was going to be corny, but I was pleasantly surprised. I would say “Elf” is a New Holiday classic. Seeing this movie, made my day great, I loved it, and so did my family. I would recommend it to all my friends.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—Michael P. Smith, age 35
Positive—…the best movie in 2003, the ending was very touching…
My Ratings: [Excellent!/4]
—Dave, age 19
Positive—Very clean and funny movie. There were no offensive scenes that I noticed. Bring your 4 year old and your 20 year old. They’ll all like it.
My Ratings: [Good/4]
—Charles Collins, age 32
Positive—I brought my 6 year old son, his 9 year old friend and my husband (under protest) to see “Elf” just last night. The boys laughed all the way through and to my husband’s surprise, so did he! ELF is a “feel good” movie with a familiar “Scrooge” played by a father who neglects his family to earn money and the “Tiny Tim” who just happens to be a 6’ Elf named “Buddie”. It has a wonderful story-line, excellent actors, and reinforces the importance of Christmas Spirit, family, love and spending time with those you love. Definitely a FAMILY CLASSIC! I look forward to ELF’s release on DVD.
My Ratings: [Good/5]
—Jennifer G., age 40
Neutral
Neutral—I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I went with an adult friend and we both loved it; I can’t wait to see it again with my children. Slight nudity (or implication) during a shower scene, but it was innocent and not objectionable. A couple of slightly objectionable words used. Overall, a great family Christmas movie that really inspires the Christmas spirit. I laughed a lot, and was at the point of tears at the happy ending. Just a real feel-good movie with good morals and storyline.
My Ratings: [Good / 3]
—Laurie, age 41
Neutral—Mr. Monroe is right—this is a wonderful family film that exhibits high moral values. Although the “Christ” is not present in this Christmas tale, the overall message that Chistmas is about believing and not seeing, is right on target. My children and I loved this movie—it is very sweet and there is a true childlike innocence that fills the character of Buddy that is refreshing to see in this day and age. Great review—great movie.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—Ginger Lynn Ross, age 35
Negative

none

Comments from young people
Positive—I went to go see this movie with my youth pastor an his wife, and we loved it. Sure it was an unrealistic movie, but sometimes you need to see a movie like this one, happy ending etc. Some parts where corny, but they fit right in with the “fairy tale” scale of the movie.
My Ratings: [Good/4]
—Anna, age 15
Positive—This was a very funny movie. The innocent elf character was hilarious to watch. By the end of the film I was growing a little tired of all the Santa, but it was definitely a feel-good movie! I went to see this with my bible study group, and we all enjoyed it a lot.
My Ratings: [4]
—Hannah, age 13
Positive—Despite the few objectionable phrases and implied situations (which I feel would fly over most young children’s heads), this movie was GREAT. Will Ferrel was HALARIOUS. This movie preaches forgotten phileo—warm and tender affection. “Buddy” is always wanting to share his love and warmth with anything and everyone. In one early scene, he encounters a raccoon who hisses and snarls at him. Buddy’s response is a warm “Somebody needs a hug!.” He is not overdone in sappiness, simply a man untouched by the corruption and degradation of the “real world.” “Elf” is all about love, Christmas, and family, making it a great film for your family around christmas time.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—Ariel, age 13
Negative—DUMBEST movie I have ever seen. It’s disgusting and completely pointless, and doesn’t even give people a christmassy feeling. I left the theater feeling extremely embarrassed for the Elf concerning his costume and all the stupid things he does. The only good part was the change of heart for the Elf’s dad.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—Maria Vanderende, age 14
Positive—Very funny and hilarious film, everyone should see it!!
My Ratings: [Good/5]
—Garrett, age 11
Positive—I find this movie very charming in Buddies innocent ways. As a little baby in a an orphanage, seeing a teddy bear in Santa’s bag he climbs in to it and is taken to the North Pole. Years later, he sets out to find he’s father. Although he has a “wanting to help” kind of character, he is very disturbing to his father in ruining a big time part of his career. I highly recommend this movie, and it has very touching parts.
My Ratings: [Excellent!/5]
—Jasie Gal, age 10
Positive—I loved this movie! I watched it with my family, and we could not stop laughing. It was targeted at young audiences, but older audiences can definitely enjoy this movie. The casting was perfect, too. The morals were decent, minus some edgy parts, but nothing too bad. I recommend this movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Isabelle, age 14 (USA)