I like Elf because it’s a comedy with heart and humor that’s all about belief. We’re asked to believe that a human child somehow hitches a ride to the North Pole and grows to young adulthood somewhat different that the elves he grew up with.
But this a movie where you forget facts and let fantasy take control. Will Farrell pulls it off as the beloved Buddy and a terrific supporting cast rounds it all out into an enjoyable film. This is one you’ll like to keep and see again and again, because its magic never ends. Highly recommended.
One Christmas Eve some years ago, while Santa was making a delivery at an orphanage, a baby crawls into Santa Claus’s sack of gifts. Santa is unaware and takes the boy to the North Pole. When the child is discovered, he’s renamed Buddy because one the elves notices he is wearing “Little Buddy” brand diapers. Papa Elf volunteers to raise him.
Buddy grows up to adulthood unaware that he’s human and not an elf. Papa Elf makes him an apprentice mechanic to repair and maintain the “Kringle 3000, 500 Reindeer-Power” jet engine installed on Santa’s sleigh. Papa Elf invented the booster when Christmas spirit needed to power the sleigh waned as folks’ belief in Santa Claus declined.
Despite his unbridled enthusiasm Buddy’s 6’3” height towers over the elves. He fails at every job he’s assigned. Buddy can’t use the elves undersized tools to make toys and lacks the speed required to maintain quota. He’s demoted to toy tester.
While working there Buddy overhears a conversation between a couple of elves about him being a human.
Papa Elf reveals that Buddy was born to humans Walter Hobbs and Susan Wells. given up for adoption by Susan. Walter never knew Buddy was born. Now that Susan has died, Walter works at a children’s book company based in New York.
Santa informs Buddy that his father is on his naughty list due to his greed and insensitivity. Buddy is convinced by Leon the Snowman to head to New York and find Walter. Santa cautions him that New York is not the nice place he expects but Buddy ignores his advice and goes anyway.
He arrives in New York City and his naivete brings immediate trouble. Buddy crosses the street at the wrong time, delights in chewing gum he picks off subway handrails, and overenthusiastically congratulates a coffee shop’s claim that they have the world’s best cup of coffee as bored and puzzled employees look on.
Buddy eventually finds his father in his Empire State Building office. Walter thinks that Buddy is dressed up to deliver a Christmas song gram. But when Buddy talks about his mom Susan Wells, Walter has him thrown out on the street. The Security guards sarcastically advise Buddy to go to Gimbels.
At Gimbels he’s mistaken for an employee in the Santa Land department. He’s given a job and meets a lovely but introverted employee named Jovie.
When Buddy hears that Santa will be arriving the next day, he’s overjoyed and sneaks back into his department after work hours and spends the night completely redecorating Santa Land, complete with intricate Lego building models, hand made decorations, lights everywhere, Christmas trees, and a giant sign that reads “WELCOME SANTA! LOVE, BUDDY!!!”
Early in the morning Buddy is intrigued by Jovi’s beautiful singing coming from the employees ladies shower. He enters and sings along softly. But Jovi hears him and yells at him to get out.
The next day, Buddy goes nuts when “Santa” arrives. But he’s horrified to discover that Gimbel’s Santa is an impostor. When Buddy accuses “Santa,” he yanks off his beard and they fight, much to the horror of children waiting in line to see Santa, their mothers and Buddy’s department boss. Buddy is fired and arrested.
He uses his one phone call to reach Walter who reluctantly bails him out of jail, then takes him to a pediatrician for a DNA test. The test confirms that Buddy is Walter’s son. The doc advises that Buddy needs nurturing and once he gets enough, his fantasy of being an elf will disappear and he’ll move on. Walter remains convinced and thinks Buddy is insane.
Reluctantly Walter takes Buddy home to meet his wife Emily and 12-year-old half-brother Michael. Michael and Walter are bothered by Buddy’s immature, innocent behavior as he slathers his pasta with maple syrup and doesn’t understand that Walter doesn’t want to play with him. Kind-hearted Emily insists that they take care of him until he recovers.
Undaunted, Buddy weaves his magic and attempts to befriend his brother. Michael rejects him until Buddy comes to his aid and defeats a snowball gang ambush in Central Park with his rapid fire delivery. In turn Michael gives Buddy dating advice about asking Jovi out. He reveals that he considers Walter to be a bad father, because his work always comes before his family and he’s rarely been there for him.
They go home carrying a 12-foot tree Buddy cut down in the park and proceed to decorate it and the apartment.
Emily convinces Walter to take Buddy to work with him so he can see what he does. They arrive with Buddy dressed in normal business attire. Buddy constantly bugs Walter. But Walter has a brilliant idea to take a job in the mail room. When Buddy arrives in the mail room he observes that everything smells and everyone looks like they want to hurt him.
Meanwhile, Walter’s boss Fulton Greenway tells him his that his Greenway Publishing business is lagging after Walter published “The Puppy and the Pigeon,” which flopped because it was missing two pages. Walter knew about the error but believed that a necessary reprint was too expensive.
Back in mail room Buddy accidentally gets drunk, mistaking a coworker’s whiskey for syrup. He the instant hit of an outrageous party.
Buddy’s date with Jovi is successful. Buddy wins her over with his childlike enthusiasm. They end up skating in Central Park and kiss. Buddy is smitten.
On Christmas Eve Walter comes up with a plan to to save his company. He hires Miles Finch, a brilliant but vertically-challenged prima donna bestselling children’s author to inject new ideas for children’s books they can publish.
The plan backfires when Buddy enters the conference room to tell Walter about his new found love. He mistakes Finch for an elf asking him innocent questions about how he managed to leave the North Pole and if he knows Santa. Offended Finch loses his temper and attacks him. He storms out of the conference room leaving behind his unsigned deal with Walter’s company. Enraged at this setback Walter screams at Buddy to get out of his life, and that he doesn’t care that he is his son.
Heartbroken, Buddy writes an apology on an Etch-A-Sketch, then aimlessly walks the bleak New York City streets. Distraught Buddy looks up to see Santa’s sleigh crash land in Central Park. He runs off to find him.
Back in his office, a desperate Walter has abandoned all hope that he can save his job. But when his associates tell him they found Finch’s notebook left behind filled with good ideas, Walter excitedly tells them to get a storyboard ready which they do.
Greenway arrives, demanding that Walter’s idea better be good or else. As Walter begins his pitch Michael bursts into the conference room. He had found the note Buddy left and frantically tells Walter that Buddy is gone. He angrily spills out his feeling about Walter’s poor fatherhood. Walter is struck with the realization that Michael is right, that putting job over his family was wrong.
He asks Greenway to reschedule the meeting, but the heartless Greenway refuses. Walter and Michael tell him to go screw himself before leaving in search of Buddy. Greenway fires him.
Meanwhile Santa’s crash landing has attracted media attention. When Buddy reaches him, Santa explains that the sleigh’s engine fell off somewhere in the Park and that the last bit of Christmas spirit was gone. Santa tells him that he needs an elf to fix the engine. Buddy responds that he isn’t one but Santa reassures him that to him, Buddy will always be. He asks Buddy to help him fix the sleigh.
Overjoyed, Buddy sets off to finds the lost engine but Walter and Michael find it first. Walter apologizes to Buddy for his behavior, finally accepting him as his son. Buddy takes them to meet the grounded Santa, who reveals that believing in him can make his sleigh fly one again. As Santa gives Michael a skateboard he wanted, his Clausometer flutters and the sleigh rises powered by Michael’s belief.
Inspired, Michael grabs Santa’s list and reads it in front of the TV cameras set up outside the park so people all over New York City can believe in him. Central Park Rangers appear looking like the four horseman of the Apocolapse. They chase Santa’s under powered sleigh through the park while Buddy tries to reattach the engine. But the engine is lost.
But then Jovi remembers that Buddy had said that “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” She overcomes her shyness and leads the Central Park crowd in singing “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” on live TV. But the sleigh remains under-powered as an unbelieving Walter merely mouths the Christmas Carol. Called on it by Michael, he overcomes his lack of Christmas spirit and joins the singing. This sleigh powers up, flies higher, away and Christmas is saved.
A year later Walter has established his own successful publishing company with his first best-selling book titled Elf, an account of Buddy’s adventures written and illustrated by Buddy himself.
Buddy and Jovi marry and have a daughter named Susie, named after Buddy’s deceased mom. The family visits Papa Elf at the North Pole. Papa Elf is pleased at being a grandpa to a human child and the film ends on a happy note.