A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Kids might learn the words to a few Christmas songs.
The movie suggests that although people sometimes lose sight of what's important in life, they can find their way back. It also says that the holiday spirit is based on faith believing rather than seeing and that generosity, kindness, and earnestness can win over even the most cynical and humorless individuals. All of that said, some of the film's humor comes from references to bodily functions: pooping, burping, peeing, throwing up.
Positive Role Models
Buddy is cheerful, well-intentioned, creative, and grateful for what he has. He brings laughter and joy to others and is a loyal and giving friend. After a storybook upbringing in Santa's workshop, Buddy brings his unique and trusting nature to New York City. At first an object of ridicule, he later becomes a stellar example to the people he encounters, even the most jaded and self-involved among them. Characters learn and demonstrate curiosity, compassion, gratitude, and integrity.
Violence & Scariness
Cartoonish action in several instances: Santa wrestles with an elf; park rangers look ominous as they chase Santa and his reindeer-driven sleigh on Christmas Eve; Buddy is hit by a taxi but immediately springs up, uninjured; a near attack by a ferocious-looking raccoon.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One sweet kiss between main characters. A reference to nakedness in the shower.
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Infrequent swearing/potty language includes "pissed," "pee," "hell," "damn," "crap," and "up yours." Comedy at the expense of a little person who is called an elf and takes offense.
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Products & Purchases
Lots of product placement, including numerous toys in Santa's workshop and the store where Buddy works: Monopoly, Etch-a-Sketch, Lego, etc. Other scenes feature Chanel, Kodak, Clinque, Pop Tarts, Coca-Cola, Tamiflu, and more.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
In one scene played for laughs, two important characters add whiskey to coffee and later are shown to be quite drunk. Wine is consumed during dinner on more than one occasion. A burping gnome is said to have been drinking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that although Elf has some potty language and mild swearing ("pissed," "hell," "damn," etc.) and a few references to bodily functions, it's family friendly at its core. Even young kids will appreciate the humor inherent in this fish-out-of-water tale, although some might be upset that Buddy's mother died and that his father never knew about him. The few action sequences (galloping rangers chasing Santa in Central Park, a brief confrontation with a scary raccoon, and some scuffles in a department store) aren't really threatening, and no one is injured. Although the movie is 100% on board with the magic of Christmas, some characters shake their head and roll their eyes at the notion of Santa, and kids talk about the possibility of parents being the ones behind the presents. But the movie's overall message of the value derived from honesty, acceptance, and affection for all humanity is clear and positive. Under the CCPA law you have the right to protect your personal information. Make a Do Not Sell request to ELF. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This movie is sweet and funny, though it can't quite seem to make up its mind whether people should need proof of Santa's existence or not. Some of the jokes in Elf work better than others, and the talents of Caan, Steenburgen, Bob Newhart (as Buddy's adoptive father), and Ed Asner (as Santa) are neglected. But director Jon Favreau shows some verve and keeps the story moving quickly enough to keep it from feeling like a series of skits.
Deschanel nicely shows us the way that Buddy appeals to Jovie's longing for a place where singing and sweetness are encouraged. Peter Dinklage has a marvelous cameo as a haughty author of children's books, making his appearance much more than a sight gag. And Ferrell? His lanky cluelessness has a slightly muddled but imperishable sweetness that gives an endearing quality to all the characters he plays, including Buddy, who's a sort of human Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Buddy's naive pleasure in the world around him is ultimately almost as endearing to us as it is to (almost) everyone he meets.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.