Generally favorable reviews - based on 38 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 28 out of 38
  2. Negative: 2 out of 38
Watch On
  1. It's a terrific movie, smart and funny enough to hold up at any time of year.
  2. The disarming comedic tone -- silly and novel in its lack of cynicism -- is driven by the fearless, cheerful unself-consciousness of Will Ferrell, a big man last seen streaking (all too unself-consciously) through ''Old School.''
  3. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    Ferrell is a hoot. So is much of this witty holiday family entertainment, which, up until the end, when the “true spirit of Christmas” must be reaffirmed, happily favors slapstick over treacle.
  4. Directed by Jon Favreau from a script by David Berenbaum, Elf returns to the hip but warm-hearted spirit of "Swingers," which Favreau both wrote and starred in. It brings sophisticated glee and a sense of innocent fun to what could have been a moribund traditional family film.
  5. 80
    How many human beings among us are capable of making a comedy with wit and intelligence that also takes bold pleasure in unabashed silliness? I think this is what happens when you let an elf loose with a movie camera.
  6. While the words "instant holiday classic" might be pushing it, Elf is at the very least a breezily entertaining, perfectly cast family treat.
  7. A movie that’s so profoundly ridiculous that it has to be admired, if for no other reason other than its sheer willingness to run with its premise and take it to the end of the line.
  8. Will Ferrell strides through Elf like a crazily cheerful wind-up toy: arms swinging, legs stiff, mouth fixed in an impossibly happy grin, eyes wide with wonder. He's the Christmas gift nobody thought to ask for but everybody will want to play with.
  9. Pays homage to a sack of Christmas movies, from the department store Claus of "Miracle on 34th Street" to a standing-on-the-bridge-contemplating-suicide moment, a la "It's a Wonderful Life."
  10. The real gift of Elf is the simple pleasure of a sweet and funny comedy that genuinely embraces its message of holiday cheer and still has fun goofing with it.
  11. 75
    This is one of those rare Christmas comedies that has a heart, a brain and a wicked sense of humor, and it charms the socks right off the mantelpiece. Even the unexpected casting is on the money.
  12. A non-sappy and genuinely adorable confection. It wiped away the Scrooge in me for 90 enchanting minutes.
  13. 75
    Ferrell's manic, overgrown-kid energy sweeps all before it, announcing him - after his standout turn in "Old School" - as a major leading-man talent who can charm as well as amuse.
  14. Funny and intelligently made, a film for kids and adults that's both sweet and sardonic...Elf stays perfectly in balance, a pleasure throughout.
  15. Elf tries so hard to be a holiday classic, to be a sweet-natured, charming little piece of holiday gloss, it's tempting to declare it so and simply go with it.
  16. 75
    The movie sets Ferrell's assaultive and juvenile physical comedy in a less-combative playground, and the result might leave the Ferrell-intolerant exiting the theater on a high.
  17. Elf, formulaic but lovable, is essentially "Big" in pointy shoes.
  18. Elf may be no more than a pleasant, amusing trifle, a grin that fades well before Thanksgiving, but it also will endure in the way all decent Hollywood-made Christmas fairy tales last if they're rendered with good cheer and good will.
  19. 70
    Charmingly irreverent.
  20. A charming, silly family Christmas movie more likely to spread real joy than migraine, indigestion and sugar shock. The movie succeeds because it at once restrains its sticky, gooey good cheer and wildly overdoes it.
  21. Ferrell provides just enough humor to get us through the familiar fare and enjoy the ride.
  22. Reviewed by: Angel Cohn
    Director Jon Favreau keeps the guy-in-an-elf-suit act from degenerating into a too-long sketch, focusing on Buddy's naïve optimism, even in the face of harsh reality.
  23. Reviewed by: Michael Agger
    The music is chirpy and borderline annoying. But once you rearrange your expectations and give yourself over to the movie's unfailing earnestness, you realize that Favreau and Ferrell do heartwarming fairly well.
  24. Reviewed by: Kevin Carr
    If you’re not a fan of Will Ferrell, you ain't gonna like this film. But if you think he's funny and you don't mind a sappy ending, this is a decent holiday flick.
  25. Reviewed by: David Rooney
    Will Ferrell graduates to his first solo leading role with flying colors in Elf, a disarming holiday comedy about a clueless innocent who saves Christmas and fosters a renewed sense of family in his reluctant father.
  26. 63
    More likely to end up on the snow pile of forgettable Christmas-themed movies than in the vault of memorable ones.
  27. 63
    There are precious few moments in Elf when Ferrell doesn't manage to at least get a smile out of you. Considering how cloying the movie might have turned out without him, that's a huge gift all its own.
  28. Elf is jolly but could have been jollier, funny but could have been funnier, charming but ... well, point made.
  29. 60
    The cast wrings laughs out of David Berenbaum's script as if it were a damp washcloth.
  30. 60
    While the picture doesn't rise to the level of instant holiday classic, younger members of the audience are guaranteed to get a Christmas kick out of it. If disappointment awaits, it awaits Ferrell's older fans.
  31. Reviewed by: Anna Smith
    The gags swing between mildly inventive and screamingly obvious, but even the latter are performed and timed well enough to draw a laugh.
  32. 58
    If you're one of those fussy filmgoers who demands that a movie engage somewhat higher body parts -- the heart, say, and the brain -- you'll find only intermittent comfort and joy in this high-concept, low-wattage film.
  33. 50
    Ferrell makes the damn thing work. Even though he can't get naked or use naughty words, there's a devil of comedy in Ferrell, and he lets it out to play. Director Jon Favreau has the good sense to just stand out of his way.
  34. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Its message is unobjectionable, and there are a few laughs to be had, but too much of Elf is like Buddy's favorite meals: syrupy sweet.
  35. 50
    The film is soon bogged down by fake hugs and a faker climax.
  36. Reviewed by: Ed Park
    Works best as a rapid-fire series of sight gags and absurd remarks.
  37. I was looking forward to something a tad more satirical than this Hallmark card of a movie, which plugs innocence and goodness like they’re going out of style.
  38. The first and possibly the last Will Ferrell star vehicle. It's a clumsy, tedious ride that wears out its welcome as it wears out the seat of your pants and the circulation in your lower limbs.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 178 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 56 out of 63
  2. Negative: 4 out of 63
  1. Jan 14, 2012
    GREAT FILM! it was funny and a perfect christmas movie to watch some parts of the movie are just too funny. Will Ferrell plays the part of elfGREAT FILM! it was funny and a perfect christmas movie to watch some parts of the movie are just too funny. Will Ferrell plays the part of elf really well. Full Review »
  2. Apr 30, 2011
    Will Ferrell gave a funny performance in this movie. However, the story seems WAY too shallow, and, overall, it's not a very funny movie.Will Ferrell gave a funny performance in this movie. However, the story seems WAY too shallow, and, overall, it's not a very funny movie. You'd be better off watching one of the older, more superior Christmas movies like Jingle All The Way and A Christmas Story. Full Review »
  3. Dec 18, 2010
    Loved it. Christmas movies usually disappoint me, but this one, this one was actually good. The characters are well developed, the plot isLoved it. Christmas movies usually disappoint me, but this one, this one was actually good. The characters are well developed, the plot is interesting and Will Farrell and Zooey Deschanel make it even better. Very good movie. Full Review »