Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas

Movie review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas Movie Poster Image
Animated version of much-loved tale invites younger viewers.
  • NR
  • 2015
  • 60 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

The story intends to entertain rather than to educate.  

Positive Messages

Feel-good reminders of hearty gifts of the season: spending time with loved ones, spreading joy, and believing in things unseen. Even the most hardened hearts can be warmed by the power of love. There's happiness in feeling like you belong, but at the same time your destiny is what you make it. Even when people don't live up to our expectations, giving the relationship a chance can have positive results. A man's small stature is the basis of a joke when he's mistaken for an elf.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Buddy is unfailingly kind, generous, cheerful, and determined to see the best in every person and situation. He's also comfortable with himself, regardless of what others think of him. In contrast, Walter is self-centered, greedy, and blind to his family's needs, but he acknowledges his wrongdoing when he comes face to face with it. Others also experience positive changes in the spirit of the season. Some adults' lack of faith in Santa Claus is noted frequently. 

Violence & Scariness

Animation lessens the impact of Buddy getting hit by a car multiple times. Most incidents leave no trace, but in one his leg is bent at an odd angle, and lightning bolts indicate pain. He's also thrown out of a few doors and once gets kicked in the face. A brawl erupts into a cloud of dust, obscuring any actual fighting. Naughty Listers are grumpy and somewhat menacing, but they experience a change of heart. 

Sexy Stuff

One kiss on the cheek. 

Language

"Butts." Rarely insults such as "jerk," "snot nose," and "fatso." 

Consumerism

This special is based on a live-action movie and a Broadway musical. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

In one scene, Buddy drowns his sorrows in a bar and acts drunk, but it's said he's drinking syrup, not alcohol. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas is an animated merging of the stories of the 2003 hit movie Elf and its Broadway musical subsidiary. Compared to the full-length film, there's significantly less marginal content in this stop-animation version; some comical impacts (Buddy is hit by multiple cars, for instance) and infrequent insults such as "fatso" and "jerk" are as edgy as it gets. In exchange, viewers get even sweeter moments of family emotion, lots of Christmas cheer, and a soundtrack packed with songs that are destined to become sing-along favorites. Need more reason to love it? Even for all his absurdity, misfit Buddy is an excellent example of the joy of being true to yourself, despite other people's expectations. 

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What's the story?

ELF: BUDDY'S MUSICAL CHRISTMAS is a stop-animation retelling of the story of Buddy (voiced by Jim Parsons), a human who was raised by elves after he hitched a ride to the North Pole in Santa's (Ed Asner) bag as a baby. After learning of his true heritage from Santa, Buddy sets out for New York City in search of his biological father, Walter Hobbs (Mark Hamill), who's totally unaware that he has an overgrown, elf-shaped adult son. But what Buddy quickly discovers is that Walter's a workaholic who has no time for Christmas or even his wife, Emily (Rachael MacFarlane), and son, Michael (Max Charles). Worse yet, he's a longstanding member of Santa's Naughty List. It will take every bit of holiday cheer Buddy and his new family and friend, Jovie (Kate Micucci), can muster to save Walter from the ranks of the Naughty Listers and to generate enough Christmas cheer to get Santa's sleigh up and running again in time for the Christmas Eve festivities.

Is it any good?

This is a Christmas story worthy of a place on your traditions list. Since its debut in 2003, Buddy's story has warmed the holiday hearts of legions of fans, thanks in large part to Will Ferrell's masterful portrayal of the unfailingly cheerful and spirited elf. His are big shoes to fill -- not only in comparison to average-size elves' but also because he left such a mark on the role itself that not many could follow (even in voice only) to fans' satisfaction. Fortunately, the creators cast one of the few who could pull it off in Parsons, who is so in touch with his inner Buddy that it's a seamless transition to this special's animated style.

For all its broad appeal, the original movie still had a few snags that kept it from being something the entire family could watch together, but that's definitely not the case for Buddy's Musical Christmas. Even though it loses some of the laugh-out-loud absurdity that accompanied Ferrell's lanky, be-legginged image, the stop-motion animation recalls Christmas classics such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer; offers a slightly more streamlined story; and yields nine lively musical numbers and heartwarming themes about families and the magic of the holiday.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what the holidays mean to them. What are some favorite traditions you enjoy during the season? How do they reflect your family's values? 

  • What makes Buddy such an endearing character? In what ways could he be considered a role model? Why is family so important to him, despite never having known them?

  • If your family has seen the live-action movie as well, compare the content and themes in both. What aspects of the story were omitted from this version, and why was that done? How do the changes alter the stories' target audience? Did you like the music in this version? Was this story worthy of a remake? 

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