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"ELF"
(2003) (Will Ferrell, James Caan) (PG)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Mild Minor Moderate *Mild None
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Moderate None Mild None Minor
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Mild Minor Mild Moderate Mild


QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: Raised as an over-sized elf, a human travels from the North Pole to NYC to meet his biological father who doesn't know he exists and is in desperate need of some Christmas spirit.
PLOT:
Long ago, on Christmas Eve, a baby in an orphanage climbed into Santa's (ED ASNER) gift sack and made a surprise trip to the North Pole. Raised by Papa Elf (BOB NEWHART) and with his human heritage kept secret from him, Buddy (WILL FERRELL) grew up thinking he was an elf just like everyone else, except for his enormous size and inability to assemble toys as quickly as his counterparts.

He eventually learns of his true identity, however, with Santa telling him that his real father, Walter Hobbs (JAMES CAAN), is a book publisher who lives in New York City and is on the famous naughty list. Undeterred by that, Buddy then sets out on a long trek to meet the father who doesn't know he even exists.

With the North Pole as his only point of reference, Buddy is shocked and amazed by the big city, but he's not as surprised as Walter is upon meeting his good-natured, but childlike adult son for the first time. Walter's wife, Emily (MARY STEENBURGEN), readily accepts him into their family as her stepson, but ten-year-old Michael (DANIEL TAY) initially isn't as friendly.

Buddy wants to spend time with his dad, but ends up mistaken by a Gimbles department store manager (FAIZON LOVE) as one of his Christmas workers. There, he meets Jovie (ZOOEY DESCHANEL), a disillusioned young woman who hates her job and is bored with life.

As Buddy tries to fit into his new surroundings, he constantly gets in his father's way. With Christmas around the corner and Santa suddenly needing help due to an energy drop-off caused by diminished Christmas spirits, Buddy and his new friends set out to save the day.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
It's a good bet many younger kids will want to see it.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: PG
For some mild rude humor and language.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • WILL FERRELL plays a good-natured but childlike human who was raised as an elf but finally gets to meet his biological father. He experiences the big city, helps bring the Christmas spirit to others and helps save Christmas.
  • JAMES CAAN plays his busy father, a children's book publisher who isn't happy to find he has an adult son, particularly one like Buddy. While initially distant and not particularly friendly toward Buddy, he eventually changes his ways.
  • ED ASNER plays Santa who tells Buddy the truth about his past.
  • BOB NEWHART plays Buddy's adoptive elf father who's kept his past a secret from him.
  • MARY STEENBURGEN plays Walter's wife who's more accepting of Buddy than he is.
  • DANIEL TAY plays their 10-year-old son who initially doesn't like Buddy but quickly befriends him.
  • ZOOEY DESCHANEL plays the department store worker who's disillusioned with her employment and life until Buddy comes into the latter.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    Here's a brief summary of the content found in this comedy that's been rated PG. Profanity consists of a handful of minor expletives, while some colorful phrases and non-explicit, sexually related dialogue (that will likely go over younger kids' heads) are also present. A sheer, Christmas-themed piece of lingerie is briefly seen (but not on anyone), as is a young woman singing in the shower (seen from the top of the chest up).

    Some instances of crude humor are present, as is a moderate amount of imitative behavior. A few characters drink, some bad attitudes are present and a few scenes might be unsettling or suspenseful to younger kids (although older ones probably won't have any problem with the material).

    Various instances of comedy-style violence (fighting and struggling) and slapstick material are present, while some tense family material (adoption-related issues and a son lamenting his father's busy life) occurs.

    If you're still concerned about the film and its appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home who may be interested in seeing it, we suggest that you take a closer look at our detailed listings for more specific information regarding the film's content.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • We hear that gnomes weren't used at the North Pole because they drink too much (and see one doing that, followed by a loud belch).
  • Walter and Emily have wine with dinner. They later do so again in another scene.
  • A mailroom worker pours some booze into his coffee. Thinking it's syrup, Buddy pours a great deal of it into his. Later, he and the worker appear a bit inebriated.
  • We twice see a guy (and others) with beer in front of them in a bar.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • We hear that trolls weren't used at the North Pole because they weren't toilet-trained. During that, we see a character with a mop standing next to a troll who lets out a loud fart.
  • A snowman tells Buddy not to eat the yellow snow.
  • After running around in circles in a revolving door, Buddy races over to a trash can where he apparently vomits (see from a distance and with no sight of actual vomit).
  • Buddy eats a cotton ball (not knowing what it is) that he's been holding on his recently pricked finger (for a blood test, but we don't see any of the blood).
  • A writing pitch is made about some asparagus kids who are embarrassed by how their pee smells.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Some kids pelt Michael with snowballs out of meanness (resulting in Buddy pelting them back with a barrage of snowballs).
  • We hear that Michael and Buddy chopped down their Christmas tree in a nearby park.
  • A ghost writer brought in to write a children's story is egotistical and demanding.
  • Mad at Buddy ruining an important business meeting, Walter tells him, "Get out of my life." (He later apologizes for that)
  • Walter's boss threatens to fire him if he leaves with Michael to help Buddy.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Younger kids might find some of the following as suspenseful, but older kids probably won't.
  • Played for laughs (although young kids might not find it funny), we briefly see elves fleeing a burning tree used for making cookies.
  • A little bit of suspenseful music plays as a (Claymation style animated) horned creature emerges from the water near Buddy, but it turns out to be a friendly sort of animal that just wants to say good-bye to him.
  • A raccoon rears up and looks menacing toward Buddy. Moments later, it jumps on his face and he struggles with it (all played for goofy comedy).
  • Some dramatic music plays as some ominous-looking Central Park Rangers on horseback race toward discovering Santa in the park. They then pursue Santa's sleigh that's flying in an out of control fashion (younger kids might be concerned that they'll catch him or the sleigh will crash).
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • None.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Lazy bum," "What in the name of Sam Hill is that?" "Cotton-headed ninny-nuggins," "Freaking," "Pissed," "Who the hell are you?" "You're a fake," "Sucked," "Son of a nutcracker," "What the hell is that?" "Crappy," "You get the hell out of here," "Nuts" (crazy), "Up yours" and an incomplete "What the..?"
  • We hear that gnomes weren't used at the North Pole because they drink too much (and see one doing that, followed by a loud belch).
  • Despite earlier being told not to do so, Buddy removes piece after piece of gum from a subway station railing and puts them in his mouth.
  • Buddy repeatedly runs around in circles in a revolving door.
  • Buddy pushes all of the buttons in an elevator with many floors.
  • Thinking it's some sort of fruit, Buddy has cologne sprayed into his mouth (and adversely reacts to the taste).
  • Buddy reluctantly gets on an escalator, but does so with his legs spread apart as far as possible (played for laughs).
  • Buddy sings (rather badly but loudly) in public.
  • A miscellaneous character has a tattoo.
  • Buddy eats various cotton balls (not knowing what they are). He later eats the one he's been holding on his recently pricked finger (for a blood test, but we don't see any of the blood).
  • Buddy guzzles a 2-liter soda in one gulp and then lets out an extremely long, loud and exaggerated belch.
  • Being accustomed only to sweets, Buddy pours maple syrup onto his spaghetti. Later, Buddy puts syrup, marshmallows and many other sweets onto more spaghetti and then eats it (with long noodles hanging from his mouth).
  • Some kids pelt Michael with snowballs out of meanness (resulting in Buddy pelting them back with a barrage of snowballs).
  • Buddy and Michael hop/jump from one mattress to another in a store and then jump up and down in moving elevator.
  • We hear that Michael and Buddy chopped down their Christmas tree in a nearby park.
  • Buddy runs and jumps onto a Christmas tree, causing it to fall to the floor (in an effort to put an ornament on it).
  • Buddy dances on a counter in the mailroom of the company where his father works.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • A little bit of suspenseful music plays in a few scenes.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 3 hells, 2 craps, 1 damn, 2 uses of "Oh my God" and 1 use of "God."
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • Santa gives Buddy advice about NYC and that a peep show isn't about seeing presents before Christmas.
  • Buddy spots some Christmas-themed lingerie (red bra with sheer negligee) that reads it's "For that someone special." He later gives this to his father as a gift (not realizing what it is).
  • We see Jovie singing in the shower at work, but only see her from the top of the chest up (thus no explicit nudity). Buddy hears her singing, and not knowing any better, then goes into the women's locker room and sings along with her (she makes him leave once she realizes he's there).
  • After Walter tells Buddy to lose the elfish tights, Buddy drops his pants. We don't see anything, but Emily does and reacts in embarrassment.
  • A ghost writer boastfully tells Buddy, "I get more action in a week" (presumably meaning sex) than Buddy has in his entire life.
  • SMOKING
  • A miscellaneous person smokes.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Buddy learns that he was adopted.
  • We hear that Buddy's real mother died long ago.
  • Michael complains that all his father cares about is money. Later, Emily says that at least Michael is finally happy (hanging out with Buddy).
  • Mad at Buddy ruining an important business meeting, Walter tells him, "Get out of my life." (He later apologizes for that)
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Buddy learns that he was adopted.
  • The Christmas spirit.
  • Santa.
  • Orphanages.
  • Santa gives Buddy advice about NYC and that a peep show isn't about seeing presents before Christmas.
  • A ghost writer is a small person who Buddy believes is a dwarf (in the mythological sense) and repeatedly refers to him as that, angering the writer.
  • Buddy seems to be contemplating jumping from a bridge, but spots Santa and changes his mind.
  • VIOLENCE
  • After learning that he's a human, Buddy faints and falls onto a much smaller elf, smashing him onto the floor.
  • A raccoon rears up and looks menacing toward Buddy. Moments later, it jumps on his face and he struggles with it (all played for goofy comedy).
  • A taxi hits Buddy in the middle of the street, sending him up on the hood, but he's okay and it's all played for laughs.
  • Buddy accidentally runs into a wall of lockers when he flees a room with his hands over his face.
  • Two security guards grab Buddy and physically escort him from their building.
  • After Buddy accidentally rips off a fake Santa's fake beard, the Santa tackles Buddy, knocks over some gifts and destroys a display of toy buildings. The store manager then tackles the fake Santa.
  • Walter pins Buddy back against a wall while confronting him.
  • Some kids pelt Michael with snowballs out of meanness (resulting in Buddy pelting them back with a barrage of snowballs).
  • Mad at Buddy for repeatedly calling him a dwarf (but not in a mean way), a small person races across a table and kicks Buddy back into a wall. He then bends his arm, flips him onto that table and then throws him to the floor.



  • Reviewed October 28, 2003 / Posted November 7, 2003

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