Elf (film)

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Elf
a grown man dressed as an elf, trapped inside a snowglobe.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jon Favreau
Produced by Jon Berg
Todd Komarnicki
Shauna Robertson
Written by David Berenbaum
Starring
Music by John Debney
Cinematography Greg Gardiner
Edited by Dan Lebental
Production
company
Guy Walks Into a Bar Productions
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release dates
  • November 7, 2003 (2003-11-07)
Running time 97 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $33 million
Box office $220.4 million

Elf (stylized as elf) is a 2003 American Christmas comedy film directed by Jon Favreau and written by David Berenbaum. It stars Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, and Zooey Deschanel. It was released in the United States on November 7, 2003 and grossed $220,443,451 worldwide. The story is about one of Santa's elves who learns of his true identity as a human and goes to New York City to meet his biological father, spreading Christmas cheer in a world of cynics as he goes.

Plot[edit]

One Christmas, during a stop at an orphanage, a baby boy named Buddy, captivated by the sight of a teddy bear, crawls into Santa Claus's (Edward Asner) sack of gifts while he is delivering toys on Christmas Eve. Santa Claus unknowingly takes Buddy back to the North Pole, where Papa Elf volunteers to raise him.

Buddy (Will Ferrell) grows up into physical adulthood in the North Pole and is unaware of his humanness. Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) makes him his apprentice and explains that he repairs the "Kringle 3000, 500 Reindeer-Power" jet engine on Santa's sleigh, which he invented when the Christmas spirit that powers the sleigh started declining after people started to stop believing in Santa Claus, forcing him to build the engine to assist Santa. Due to his being a human in an environment designed for the North Pole elves, Buddy is uncomfortably bigger than the elves, and is unable to use the items utilized by them. His toy making skills are comparatively inferior and he is unable to keep up with the elves' high quotas, and despite the elves' assurances that he's just "special", is demoted to a demeaning job testing the toys the elves make. While working, he overhears a conversation where another elf reveals that Buddy is a human. Papa Elf reveals that Buddy was born to Walter Hobbs (James Caan) and Susan Wells and given up for adoption, and that Walter never knew of his existence. He explains how Susan later died and that Walter now works at a children's book company in New York City. Buddy is convinced by Leon the Snowman (Leon Redbone) to go to New York City and find his father. Buddy sets out for a long trip to New York City to track down his father. Prior to leaving, Santa advises him that New York is not as innocent as Leon implies, and that his father is on the naughty list.

Upon arrival at New York City, Buddy finds his father in his office in the Empire State Building. Walter Hobbs initially lets him in, despite thinking Buddy is sending him a Christmas gram but when Susan Wells is mentioned, he instead calls security on him, who advise Buddy he go to Gimbels, where he is mistaken for an employee, and eventually meets Jovie (Zooey Deschanel), a Gimbels employee whom he falls in love with. When the department store Santa (Artie Lange) arrives that day to meet children, Buddy is shocked to discover that he is not the genuine Santa he knows, and the two scuffle after Buddy Accidentally rips off the man's fake beard. He is arrested and turns himself into jail. When Walter bails Buddy out, he takes him to a pediatrician (Jon Favreau) for a DNA test to find out that he is in fact Walter's son. Once proven, he takes him home to meet his stepmother, Emily (Mary Steenburgen) and 12-year-old half-brother named Michael (Daniel Tay). Buddy confounds the family by his childlike enthusiasm, eccentric food tastes and dining deportment, and insistence that he actually walked from the North Pole.

Buddy befriends Michael after helping him defeat bullies in a snowball fight in Central Park, and Michael helps Buddy ask Jovie out on a date. Walter, meanwhile, finds out his business is in trouble after publishing the flop "The Puppy and the Pigeon" with two missing pages. Buddy gets a job in the Empire State Building mail room while going to work with Walter. Unfortunately, he accidentally becomes drunk on the first day, mistaking his coworker's whisky for syrup, and subsequently throws an outrageous party in the mail room. He goes on a date with Jovie and is able to win her over with his childlike enthusiasm. In an effort to save his company, Walter decides to hire the temperamental bestselling children's writer Miles Finch (Peter Dinklage) in search of new ideas for children's literature. After Finch arrives, Buddy enters the conference room to tell Walter about his newfound love and mistakes Finch for an elf because of his dwarfism. When Buddy questions Finch about how he managed to leave the North Pole, Finch loses his temper and beats up Buddy before storming out. Walter wants nothing to do with Buddy after the incident and angrily yells at him to leave for good. Heartbroken, Buddy writes an Etch A Sketch message to his father and runs away.

After Buddy leaves, Walter's associates find that Finch left a notebook filled with ideas behind, saving his pitch. Michael reads Buddy's message and bursts in on Walter's board meeting to frantically inform him that Buddy is gone. He manages to convince Walter to put his family above his job for the first time, despite getting fired. Walter quits his job and he and Michael leave to find Buddy. Meanwhile, Buddy sees Santa's sleigh crash in Central Park. He finds Santa, who explains that he lost the sleigh's engine, and that the last bit of Christmas spirit had faded as well. Walter and Michael then encounter Buddy in Central Park, where Walter apologizes to Buddy for his behavior and accepts him as his son. Buddy takes them to meet Santa, who reveals to Michael that believing in him can make his sleigh fly. Michael reads Santa's list in front of TV cameras gathered outside the park, so that people all across New York City believe in him. The Central Park Rangers begin to chase his sleigh while Buddy is still trying to reattach the engine.

Jovie manages to overcome her shyness and get the sleigh back in the air by the power of Christmas spirit when she leads the crowd of people in singing "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" on live TV, recalling what Buddy said, that "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is to sing loud for everyone to hear". Santa is still barely unable to fully power the sleigh. Walter, who was mouthing the words, is convinced by Michael to overcome his lack of Christmas spirit and starts singing for real, allowing the sleigh enough power to fly higher and save Christmas. By the next Christmas, Walter starts his own publishing company with the first best-selling book released titled Elf, an account of Buddy's adventures written and illustrated by Buddy Hobbs himself.

Sometime later, Buddy and Jovie are married and have a daughter named Susie, who is named after Buddy's now-deceased biological mother. During the film's closure, the family visits Papa Elf at the North Pole.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Apart from snow, no other computer generated imagery (CGI) was used in the film.[2] The movie makes heavy use of forced perspective to make Buddy the Elf appear much larger than all the other elves. Stop motion animation was also used.[3]

Zooey Deschanel singing was not in the original script and Favreau added it when he learned she was a singer.[3] Buddy belches for twelve seconds, after drinking a 2 liter bottle of Coca-Cola. The belch was real, as dubbed by voice actor Maurice LaMarche.[4] A line of jack-in-the-box toys are heard emitting a "hyena laugh" sound effect that first appeared in Lady And The Tramp.[citation needed]

Elf was not entirely shot in New York City; there are several scenes shot in Vancouver at the Coquitlam, British Columbia, at Riverview Hospital.[3][5]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

Elf opened at number 2 at the US box office with $31.1 million, finishing behind The Matrix Revolutions, also in its first week.[6]

The film would go on to earn a total gross of over $220 million at the box office worldwide,[7] greatly exceeding its production budget of $33 million. In the US it topped the box office on its second week of release, beating out Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. In the UK it ranked #2 behind Love Actually.[8]

Grosses
  • Domestic: $173,398,518
  • International: $47,044,933
  • Total: $220,443,451

Critical response[edit]

The film received positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 84%, based on 178 reviews, with an average rating of 7/10. The site's consensus reading, "A movie full of Yuletide cheer, Elf is a spirited, good-natured family comedy, and it benefits greatly from Will Ferrell's funny and charming performance as one of Santa's biggest helpers."[9] On Metacritic the film has a score of 64 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[10]

Roger Ebert gave The film 3/4 stars.[11]

Accolades[edit]

The film was nominated for 9 awards and won 2.[12]

Won
  • 2004 ASCAP award - Top Box Office Films (John Debney)
  • 2004 Golden Trailer - Best Comedy
Nominated
  • 2004 Blimp Award - Favorite Movie
  • 2004 MTV Movie Award - Best Comedic Performance (Will Ferrell)
  • 2004 PFCS Award - Best Live Action Family Film and Best Use of Previously Published or Recorded Music
  • 2004 Teen Choice Award - Choice Movie Actor (Will Ferrell) and Choice Movie - comedy
  • 2005 Golden Satellite Award - Best Youth DVD

Critics' rankings[edit]

Since its release, the film has joined the many holiday-themed films which air annually on television during the Christmas season.

Legacy[edit]

Main article: Elf the Musical

A Broadway musical based upon the film ran on Broadway during the 2010 Christmas season. It was directed by Casey Nicholaw, with music by Matthew Sklar, lyrics by Chad Beguelin, and a book by Bob Martin and Thomas Meehan.

The musical officially opened at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on November 10, 2010, after previews from November 2, 2010. The cast included Sebastian Arcelus as Buddy, Amy Spanger as Jovie, Beth Leavel as Emily, Mark Jacoby as Walter, Matthew Gumley as Michael, Valerie Wright as Deb, Michael McCormick as Mr. Greenway, Michael Mandell as Store Manager, and George Wendt as Santa. The musical ran through to January 2, 2011.[25]

Music[edit]

Soundtrack[edit]

The soundtrack was released on New Line Records in November 2003 in the USA[26] and in October 2005 in the UK.[27]

  1. "Pennies from Heaven" - Louis Prima
  2. "Sleigh Ride" - Ella Fitzgerald and the Frank De Vol Orchestra
  3. "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" - Lena Horne
  4. "Sleigh Ride/Santa Claus Party" - Ferrante and Teicher/Les Baxter
  5. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - Leon Redbone/Zooey Deschanel
  6. "Jingle Bells" - Jim Reeves
  7. "The Nutcracker Suite" - Brian Setzer
  8. "Christmas Island" - Leon Redbone
  9. "Santa Baby" - Eartha Kitt/Henri René and His Orchestra
  10. "Winter Wonderland" - Leon Redbone
  11. "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" - Eddy Arnold
  12. "Nothing from Nothing" - Billy Preston

Score[edit]

The score to the film, composed and conducted by John Debney and performed by the Hollywood Studio Symphony, was released by Varese Sarabande.[28] The soundtrack was certified Gold by the RIAA on April 15, 2011.

  1. Papa Elf (1:35)
  2. Main Title (1:59)
  3. Buddy's Journey (2:38)
  4. A Stroll With Buddy (1:32)
  5. Christmas Medley (2:23)
  6. Weird Wonderland (1:34)
  7. The Frozen Battlefield (1:29)
  8. Buddy's Theme (:58)
  9. Santa's In Trouble (2:06)
  10. A Walk In The Park (1:01)
  11. Attack Of The Little People (1:15)
  12. Central Park Rangers (2:54)
  13. Working With Dad (:36)
  14. A Snowman's Advice (1:47)
  15. Showdown In The Park (3:31)
  16. Buddy And Santa Take Flight (1:15)
  17. Spaghetti And Syrup (1:36)

Home media[edit]

Elf is available on DVD, VHS, and Blu-ray, the latter of which was released on October 28, 2008. It is also available for the PlayStation Portable with Universal Media Disc.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Elf Movie - Bob Newhart Interview". Movies.about.com. 2013-12-19. Retrieved 2014-02-21. 
  2. ^ Stephanie Snipes CNN (2003-11-07). "CNN.com - How to create an 'Elf' - Nov. 7, 2003". Edition.cnn.com. Retrieved 2014-02-21. 
  3. ^ a b c By Gary Susman (2013-12-24). "'Elf' at 10: Jon Favreau Reflects on Buddy's Magical Legacy | Movies News". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2014-02-21. 
  4. ^ "Maurice LaMarche interview on Talk Radio Meltdown - Explanation of Buddy the Elf's belch at 21:52". Talk Radio Meltdown. Retrieved 27 May 2011. 
  5. ^ "Explanation of the sound effect". Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  6. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for November 7-9, 2003". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  7. ^ "Elf (2003)". Box Office Mojo. Amazon.com. Retrieved 1 January 2010. 
  8. ^ "Elf beats Crowe at US box office". bbc.co.uk (BBC News). 16 November 2003. Retrieved 2011-12-24. 
  9. ^ "Elf at Rotten Tomatoes". Flixster Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 12, 2014. 
  10. ^ http://www.metacritic.com/movie/elf
  11. ^ Emerson, Jim (2003-11-07). "Elf Movie Review & Film Summary (2003)". Roger Ebert. Retrieved 2014-02-21. 
  12. ^ "Elf Awards". IMDB. Retrieved 1 January 2010. 
  13. ^ "The 30 Best Christmas Movies Ever". empireonline.com (Bauer Consumer Media). December 2010. Retrieved 2011-12-24. 
  14. ^ "Merry Christmas! The best Christmas movies ever". Daily News New York. 21 December 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-24. 
  15. ^ "Top 10 Christmas Movies". About.com (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 2011-12-24. 
  16. ^ Reynolds, Simon (December 19, 2011). "Muppet Christmas Carol tops Digital Spy favourite Christmas film poll". Digital Spy (Hearst Magazines UK). Retrieved December 24, 2011. 
  17. ^ Hughes, Mark. "Elf #7 Forbes best christmas movies of all time". 
  18. ^ "Newsday Elf 7th best christmas film". 
  19. ^ "Guardian Greatest christmas movies Elf #4". HanMan. 
  20. ^ "Chicago tribune #17 elf greatest christmas film of all time". HanMan. 
  21. ^ "SFC Elf #4 Greatest christmas movie of all time". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
  22. ^ Nashawaty, Chris (2011-12-26). "Entertainment Weekly Greatest xmas movies of all time Elf #4". 
  23. ^ "Elf #3 total film greatest xmas film of all time". 
  24. ^ Couch, Aaron. "Elf #6 Greatest xmas film of all time". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  25. ^ Hetrick, Adam."Beth Leavel, Mark Jacoby and George Wendt to Star in Elf – The Musical on Broadway" playbill.com, August 11, 2010
  26. ^ "Elf Soundtrack". Amazon.com. Retrieved 1 January 2010. 
  27. ^ "Elf Original Soundtrack". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 1 January 2010. 
  28. ^ "Hollywood Studio Symphony". Retrieved 1 January 2010. 

External links[edit]