Elf: 7 Sobering Thoughts I Had When Watching The Will Ferrell Movie That Made Me Question Everything

Will Ferrell as Buddy in Elf
(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

Elf is a certified Christmas classic, one of the reasons I’ll always check out a new Will Ferrell movie, and is definitely at the top of my list of must-watch movies during the holiday season. I’ve seen it dozens of times since its release, and like with most movies we watch that many times, we start to pick up on new things we hadn’t thought of the first, fifth or even the tenth time. Such was the case during my latest Elf viewing, which had me rethinking some moments in a much more sobering way. 

I watched Elf enough times I could afford to watch this latest viewing with a critical eye, and while that’s not the way to watch the Will Ferrell classic, it did lead to some interesting insights. Readers might not agree with all of them, but they are worth reading for anyone looking to pull some new insights from the movie.

Bob Newhart in Elf

(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

Papa Elf Should’ve Told Buddy He Was Adopted Much Sooner In Life

Papa Elf is a beloved character and probably my favorite of the whole movie. At the same time, I can’t help but judge him a little for waiting so long to tell Buddy he was adopted, especially given all the tell-tale signs he was a human living amongst elves. Elf does this because it plays to significant comedic effect and speaks to Buddy’s innocence that he never really questioned why he was five to six times larger than most of his peers. Still, had Papa Elf maybe told Buddy about his origins early on, he could’ve taken some time to reflect on a plan to find his birth family and not split out so willy-nilly. 

Will Ferrell in Elf

(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

The Elf Sugar Diet Would’ve Been Disasterous On Buddy’s Human Body

The elven main food groups are candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup. Buddy adheres to that diet in the movie and doesn’t seem comfortable eating a regular human diet. If I’m to assume that Buddy lived his whole life on a sugar-based diet, I cannot begin to imagine how that impacted his body. His body must be subconsciously begging for some nutrients elsewhere, which could be why he downs those cotton balls in the doctor’s office with ease. I wish that doctor would’ve just given Buddy a physical in addition to running the DNA test, because I just can’t imagine what shape he’s in. 

Ed Asner as Santa Claus in Elf

(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

Santa Could’ve Given Some Better Advice To Buddy

Elf doesn’t lay out the rules for the Santa of its universe, but based on context clues, he appears to be just as human as Buddy. So isn’t it super weird that the only advice he could provide before Buddy sets off to New York City to find his biological father was to not eat chewed gum, only one Ray’s Pizza is the original and to avoid peep shows? Like, what kind of tower does jolly old St. Nick live atop that he feels like any of that was viable life advice that would help Buddy? Why didn’t he slip him some cash to find a hotel? He could’ve prepped him with some basic social skills! My thought here is that Santa was just too tied up in Christmas to really care, which is not too far off from his portrayal in Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. Is that intentional? It’s not the only similarity between the claymation classic and the Will Ferrell movie.

Zooey Deschanel in Elf

(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

Buddy Likely Knew Jovie Was Naked 

Buddy is innocently chilling in the bathroom while Jovie showers and sings is one of the most hilarious scenes in Elf, but when you’ve seen the movie as often as I have, you get caught up in things. Buddy claims to Jovie he had no idea she was naked when she calls him out after the incident, and it plays well because he’s naive in nature. At the same time, we see a flashback of Buddy at the beginning of the movie of him undressed in the shower. Knowing that, it seems like Buddy just lied to avoid any trouble, which makes the scene feel different. It doesn’t necessarily mean Buddy had ill intentions, but as Britney Spears would say, he’s not that innocent. Perhaps it was one of those lines Will Ferrell improvised.

Will Ferrell in Elf

(Image credit: HBO Max)

What The Hell Was Going On In The South Pole?

Buddy makes an offhanded comment about Miles Finch being from the South Pole during their heated exchange, which is interesting. We know that Buddy meant no actual offense in the conversation, so was he confirming the existence of angry elves that live on the South Pole? What’s the story there? Who are these elves and why are they living at the South Pole? Is there an anti-Santa living in the Elf universe? Are these exiled elves who were booted from the North Pole? I’ve thought about this a lot over the years, and as meaningless as the line is, I want some answers. 

Peter Dinklage in Elf

(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

Walter’s Company Was Almost Certainly Sued By Miles Finch

The most bizarre portion of Elf comes when Walter’s employees find children’s author Miles Finch’s idea book and use an idea from it to save the project they’re working on and the company. For some reason, everyone completely ignores the fact that even if Finch was a jerk, they’re still stealing an original idea of his from a book that he unintentionally left on their premises. You’d almost certainly think he’d file suit the minute he saw the release of that book. The company could even end up in even worse condition than if it didn’t finish the book, so I don’t know why the movie presented it as an awesome moment. 

will ferrell elf

(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

Will Ferrell Was Right To Turn Down A Sequel

For all the jabs I take at Elf here, I want to say that they only come after dozens of viewings over the years. The reality is that I view this as a modern Christmas classic, which is a hard title to obtain considering just how many holiday movies come out every year. As an added bonus, it’s one of the few Christmas classics without a sequel, which is rare. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Christmas Story, and Christmas Vacation are just a few notable holiday films that couldn’t avoid the temptation of a sequel, and they’re never as good. An Elf sequel would be a disaster, so kudos to Will Ferrell for turning it down

If you have an HBO Max Subscription, you can binge Elf on the platform to your heart’s delight this holiday season. There are also a decent amount of other solid holiday movies over on HBO Max (opens in new tab), so be sure to browse around to see what else is on there. 

Mick Joest
Content Producer

Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.