#1. "Treat every day like Christmas." #2. "There's room for everyone on the 'Nice' list." #3. "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear."
—The Code of the Elves
Elf is a 2003 Christmas film directed by Jon Favreau and starring Will Ferrell. Ferrell stars as Buddy, a human who is raised by Santa Claus (Edward Asner) and the elves at the North Pole after accidentally crawling into Santa's sack as an orphaned baby. Realizing that he is not competent as an elf and discovering his true lineage, he decides to head to New York City, where he meets his deadbeat corporate father, Walter (James Caan). His father initially doesn't believe he is his son, but is introduced to his family, who is won over by his innocent charm. Buddy's adventures in the city include an encounter with a fake Santa at Gimbel's and falling in love for the first time with an employee dressed as an elf (Zooey Deschanel). His own father begins to warm up to him but yells at him after Buddy screws up a deal with a famous children's book author. Buddy runs away, feeling he never belonged in New York.Santa's sleigh then crashes in Central Park, where the big man himself tells Buddy that a lack of Christmas spirit has caused the engines to fail. Now it's up to Buddy to repair the sleigh and get everyone to believe in Santa before Christmas is ruined.It manages to be a funny, charming and (mostly) family-safe Christmas movie. A musical Screen-to-Stage Adaptation had limited, holiday-season engagements on Broadway in 2010 and 2012 and has since launched a touring production.
This film provides examples of:
Adaptation Expansion: The musical version has a few elements not present in the original movie, including an entire scene where Buddy enters a Chinese restaurant to sulk after Walter tells him to get out of his life, where he finds a bunch of department store Santas complaining about their jobs, and how disrespectful and ill-behaved today's kids are.
Jovie is given a much-needed backstory that explains why she's such a humbug when we first meet her, she grew up in Los Angeles, where she describes Christmas as being, "surreal", because it never snowed; she had been living in New York for two years, and even then, she still never saw snow, so Christmas never felt special to her. That, and apparently she went out with a bunch of jerkasses over the years.
Adoring the Pests: Buddy tries to befriend a vicious raccoon, who attacks him for his troubles.
Big Applesauce: Buddy goes to NYC. The network that catches Buddy on camera is real.
According to the DVD commentary, the bearded guy who Buddy mistakes for Santa during the "Pennies from Heaven" scene when he first gets to New York was also real and unaware that he was being filmed for a movie.
Big "NO!": Buddy's reaction to finding that his father is on the naughty list.
Big "YES!": Miles Finch lets one fly while discussing ideas for his next book.
Brick Joke: One of the jack-in-the-boxes that Buddy had been in charge of testing makes a surprise reappearance late in the film.
Black Knight: "Oh no. It's the Central Park Rangers." Indeed, the Rangers, in their charge, resemble galloping Ring Wraiths.
Buffy Speak: Buddy, after seeing his father's secretary Deborah: "That's a nice, purple dress. It's very purple-y."
The Cast Showoff: Zooey Deschanel, the "She" of musical duo She & Him, gets to show off her chops.
Christmas Carolers: When Buddy first meets Jovie and has trouble reaching her, he tries to lift her spirit by telling her, "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear." Later in the movie, when she learns Santa's sleigh has lost its power source because nobody has Christmas spirit, she remembers Buddy's words of wisdom, and tries to boost everyone's spirit by leading a round of spontaneous Christmas caroling, singing, "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town".
Well, they're not really that corrupt, they're just a bunch of cotton-headed ninny muggins, as proven by that incident where they shipped an order of books with a couple missing pages. No wonder the company is failing.
Crazy Consumption: In one memorable scene, Buddy eats for breakfast: a plate of spaghetti topped with maple syrup, several fistfuls of candy and a crumbled Pop-Tart. Dentists will have nightmares viewing it.
Creator Cameo: Jon Favreau appears as both the doctor Buddy visits and as the voice of Mr. Narwhal.
And also voiced the other Arctic creatures like the puffin, polar bear, and seal.
Dead Guy Junior: Blink and you'll miss it, but in the ending sequence, Buddy and Jovie's daughter is named Susie, after Buddy's birth mother.
Gasshole: Buddy swallows an entire 2-litre bottle of Coca-Cola in one gulp and then lets out a very loud burp (dubbed in by Maurice LaMarche).
Genius Ditz: Buddy acts like a 7-year-old trapped in an adult's body, but is able to make a Lego replica of New York City, draw the Mona Lisa on an Etch-A-Sketch, and singlehandedly decorate an entire store for Santa's arrival in less than one night. He should be hired by stores that need rapid redecoration work. Which is why you should be really upset when those Legos start getting destroyed.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: Goes right over the kids' heads obviously, but when you're an adult, and you stop to think about it, it becomes clear that Buddy was born illegitimately.
The Broadway musical version directly acknowledges that Buddy was born as the result of "consequences" between Walter and Susan Wells.
Also in the musical version, Gimbel's manager (Macy's in the play) sees Buddy has the hots for Jovie, and suggests he take her out... including suggesting he walk her home, and take her into the bedroom. Buddy's childlike innocence and naivete turns the rest into a Double Entendre as he assumes that, "Getting into bed and snuggling her" means just that."
Again, from the musical, in the end when the Hobbs family visits Santa, with Buddy and Jovie's new baby in tow, Buddy remarks that she was the result of a, "New way of snuggling Jovie showed me that I never heard of before, but really like it!"
Historical In-Joke: A Macy's store is used as a stand-in for Gimbels. Macy's bought out the real Gimbels chain in 1986.
Homage Shot: Like George Bailey from It's a Wonderful Life, Buddy finds himself standing on the edge of a bridge one night, suffering feelings of worthlessness, until he notices a falling ethereal being in need of his rescue. In this case, Santa's sleigh.
How Can Santa Deliver All Those Toys?: Inverted when Buddy is told that some kids think their parents give them toys for Christmas, and Buddy says that parents can't deliver all those toys in one night.
Innocently Insensitive: Due to his childhood in the North Pole, he has no idea how offensive his interaction with Miles is.
The Insomniac: Elves are apparently satisfied with only 40 minutes a night sleep, and Buddy, somehow, manages to cope with this.
Made of Iron: Buddy can get run over by a taxi cab and walk away as if it didn't happen (all while apologizing for getting in the way).
In another scene he mistakes a short book writer for an elf, & gets the crap beaten out of him. Despite the massive amount of force in his beating, he still isn't handicapped.
The first time it happens for Buddy is when he encounters a raccoon. Said raccoon apparently mauls him after he ignores its pretty obvious warning symbol & yet he walks along without a single scratch on his face.
Mall Santa: Department store Santa, technically. But Buddy is not fooled because the guy smells like beef and cheese, not milk and cookies.
Medium Blending: When Buddy leaves the North Pole, he meets pastiches of stop-motion Christmas characters as we transition to the real world.
Missing Trailer Scene: There was a scene where Buddy was playing ice hockey with his elf friends which ends in him checking an elf so hard he flies into the stands. It was in every trailer. Suffice to say, it didn't show up in the movie. It did show up in the deleted scenes on the DVD.
Buddy: We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup.
It appears that the North Pole is an almost literal Sugar Bowl.
Take That: In the musical version, while Greenway is sold on the story of Buddy the Elf for Greenway Publishing's newest book, he orders one change: the title character will be a horse instead of an elf, because apparently, the biggest demographic is tween girls who love ponies.
Un Duet: Jovie is singing one in the shower, however soon Buddy joins in...to much surprise.
Unusual Euphemism: At one point, Buddy berates himself as a "cotton-headed ninnymuggins". Later on, he exclaims "Son of a nutcracker!" after being hit with a snowball.