The Elf on the Shelf: An Elf's Story

Movie review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
The Elf on the Shelf: An Elf's Story Movie Poster Image
Popular book inspires delightful holiday movie for families.
  • NR
  • 2011
  • 24 minutes

Parents say

age 5+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 4+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Nothing truly educational, but the story's feel-good messages spread good will about the spirit of the holidays.

Positive Messages

The story's message underscores the true spirit of Christmas, which is less about gifts and more about a sense of joy and peace and love among families.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Chippey is a model employee who takes pride in his work and wants to do the best job he can. He also proves that perseverance pays off. When Taylor breaks the rules by touching Chippey, he learns about the repercussions of his actions and does what he can to solve the problem.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff

The story is inspired by a book of the same name, which comes packaged with its own elf to keep tabs on the owner's home. The book cover is visible numerous times throughout the movie, and the story even goes so far as to show Chippey being packaged with the book for shipment.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this spirited holiday story is based on a popular kids' book that's packaged with its own shelf-sized elf, so if your home doesn't already have one, it's a good bet your kids will be clamoring for one after they tune in. The story centers on a boy who doubts the existence of Christmas magic (and, by association, Santa), but the story's evolvement leaves little doubt in that regard. This delightful tale is a great addition to families' holiday TV traditions, and viewers of all ages are bound to enjoy its vibrant display of Christmas fanfare and feel-good emotions that reflect the season.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bybumpers November 27, 2011

elf in show says there is no santa

this is a good show but beware the first part of the movie. Santa says to the elf wow you have a big job to do this person does not believe in santa anymore.... Continue reading
Parent of a 1, 5, 7, and 7-year-old Written byFowlerFan November 23, 2013


There are a lot of good Christmas shows out there ... the classics such as Rudolph and Frosty. Or new titles, such as the Prep and Landing series. This ... is... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byPeebody December 22, 2019

It’s the best movie ever

So I buy mine in the store and then I put it on for the kids and they loved it
Teen, 13 years old Written byradicalcrunch December 14, 2016

Do not watch unless you are going to buy an Elf on the Shelf in the future

If you already have an Elf on the Shelf: this movie is expected to give you a cool backstory of them, but instead just gives a boring one that your child could... Continue reading

What's the story?

THE ELF ON THE SHELF follows the adventures of Chippey (voiced by Brendan Dooling), a novice scout elf from the North Pole who's assigned to the McTuttle home to keep tabs on the behavior of 9-year-old Taylor (Michael May) and his twin sisters, Kendyl (Evie Eikhoff) and Caroline (Julia Walters), so he can report back to Santa each night. Taylor's skepticism about Christmas makes him a tough assignment, and when he drains Chippey's magic by touching him (a cardinal no-no when dealing with elves), Chippey fears that he's failed his new family. But Christmas magic has a way of doing the impossible, and with a little faith from Taylor, holiday spirit might just change Chippey's fortune.

Is it any good?

What began as a simple Christmas tradition for one family has blossomed into a best-selling book that has now inspired what's sure to become a new addition to kids' holiday must-see list. Look past the modern CGI animation and you'll find a timeless story that deserves a place among the classics like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Viewers who are familiar with the book will love how this movie stays true to it, incorporating aspects of the story and the illustrations even while it expands on the tale by following an individual elf's journey to a home of his own.

There's a commercial tie-in to be considered, since the book cover is visible throughout the movie and one scene shows Chippey being boxed up with a copy of the story to be shipped out to his family. If you've already adopted your own family's elf, this will just enhance your kids' excitement about their magical visitor, but if you haven't, it's probably going to make them want one.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the holidays. What are some of your family's favorite traditions during the holidays? How do you incorporate aspects of your culture or religious beliefs into them? What do you think is the true meaning of Christmas?

  • Kids: Was anything about this movie's presentation of the North Pole different from that of other specials you've watched? Which parts were your favorites? What other shows do you traditionally watch during the holidays?

  • How does TV influence our desires for certain products? Are there toys or games that you've seen in TV shows or movies that you want? How does this kind of advertising work?

Movie details

  • On DVD or streaming: November 26, 2011
  • Studio: CBS Films
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Run time: 24 minutes
  • MPAA rating: NR
  • Last updated: November 3, 2020

Our editors recommend

For kids who love holiday fare

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