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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.



1,436 ( 511)
2 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:


Buddy was a baby in an orphanage who stowed away in Santa's sack and ended up at the North Pole. Later, as an adult human who happened to be raised by elves, Santa allows him to go to New York City to find his birth father, Walter Hobbs. Hobbs, on Santa's naughty list for being a heartless jerk, had no idea that Buddy was even born. Buddy, meanwhile, experiences the delights of New York City (and human culture) as only an elf can. When Walter's relationship with Buddy interferes with his job, he is forced to reevaluate his priorities. Written by Ken Miller <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


This holiday, discover your inner elf.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for some mild rude humor and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:




Release Date:

7 November 2003 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Elf, el duende  »

Box Office


$33,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$31,113,501 (USA) (7 November 2003)


$173,381,405 (USA) (27 February 2004)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Will Ferrell turned down $29 million to be in Elf 2 in late 2013. See more »


Buddy's date with Jovie takes place during the night. In the next scene in Walter's office, it is obviously day; however, Buddy is still wearing the same clothes from the date. See more »


[first lines]
Papa Elf: Oh, hello. You're, uh, you're probably here about the story.
[the pages flip to show Papa Elf talking to the camera]
Papa Elf: Elves love to tell stories. I-I'll bet you didn't know that about elves. There's, uh, probably a lot of things you didn't know about elves. Another, another interesting, uh, elfism, uh, there are only three jobs available to an elf. The first is making shoes at night while, you know, while the old cobbler sleeps.
See more »


Referenced in Cleanflix (2009) See more »


Santa Claus is Comin' to Town
Written by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie
Sung by Zooey Deschanel, Mary Steenburgen, Daniel Tay, James Caan, and Chorus
See more »

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User Reviews

This will play on television every year for the rest of our lives
22 December 2003 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This is a good natured holiday comedy that definitely is in the same realm as "The Santa Clause" and (Dare I say?) "Miracle on 34th Street". Story is about a human that has been raised by Santa's elves at the North Pole and as he gets older he figures out that he's very different from the other elves. Years earlier Santa (Ed Asner) was delivering at an orphanage and a human baby accidentally crawled into his sack and was taken back to the North Pole where he was raised by Papa Elf (Bob Newhart). He is called Buddy (Will Ferrell) and he grows to six foot three and one day he is told the truth about his situation and told by Santa who his real father is. Buddy travels to New York City to meet his father and he heads to the Empire State Building where he works. He finds his father Walter (James Caan) who runs a publishing business and works all the time much to the chagrin of his family. Walter is unable to get away from Buddy and after a blood test proves he is his son he takes him home with him to stay with his family. He meets Walter's wife Emily (Mary Steenburgen) and their son and Walter thinks Buddy is just someone reverting to his childhood after a shock. Buddy starts to work in a department store and he meets a woman named Jovie (Zooey Deschanel) and is smitten by her. Buddy tries to fit in with the others but finds it difficult although he becomes friends with Walter's son and starts dating Jovie.

This film is directed by Jon Favreau who has made his mark as a director of low budget films like "Made" and also as a character actor but this is his first effort at directing a mainstream Hollywood movie. He does a commendable job and as I watched this film I kept having the feeling that he purposely made the most commercial film that he could. Favreau as an actor has mostly appeared in small roles. As a director his small films are lucky to play at art house theaters and I seriously doubt he's getting rich hosting "Dinner For 5" on the Independent Film Channel. It looks as though he wanted to make a crowd pleasing film that will ultimately be playing on some cable channel for the rest of our lives. I'm not knocking this decision at all, it's a smart move and he's become a major Hollywood player with the success of this film. Even the script was carefully written to insure that WHEN this plays on television there will be nothing to edit out. The closest thing to a bad word is uttered by Caan when he says "Hell" once towards the end of the film. This is a fun film that does have undeniable charm and its heart is definitely in the right place. It's sentimental and corny but thats part of the appeal. The script doesn't try to hard and the energy and flow of the film keeps at a constant pace, it doesn't try to go over the top which is refreshing. Ferrell is a natural performer and his dopey wide eyed expressions never grow old. This film must be doing something right because tough guy James Caan is believable as a caring husband and father. Very old fashioned story that never raises itself above lightweight status is nonetheless funny and charming. Like I said earlier, this film will be playing on television every year for the rest of our lives!

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