On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 84% based on 189 reviews, and an average rating of 7/10.
The site's critical consensus reads, "A movie full of Yuletide cheer, Elf is a spirited, good natured family comedy, and it benefits greatly from Will Ferrell's funny and charming performance as one of Santa's biggest helpers." Writing for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers gave the film 2 out of 4 stars, saying: "Ferrell makes the damn thing work.
Walter and Michael are put off by Buddy's odd behavior, but Emily insists that they care for him until he "recovers".
Buddy and Michael become friends after defeating a gang of bullies in a snowball fight and Michael encourages Buddy to ask Jovie on a date. Walter's boss, citing the failure of the company's most recent book, expects a new book by Christmas Eve, so Walter and his team hire best-selling children's author Miles Finch.
Buddy grows up at the North Pole believing he is an elf, but due to his human size is unable to keep up with the other elves and demoted to the demeaning job of toy testing.
When Buddy overhears that he is a human, Papa Elf explains that Buddy was born to Walter Hobbs and Susan Wells, and given up for adoption.
Walter's boss is prepared to hear the pitch when Michael arrives and informs Walter that Buddy is gone.Taking a security guard's sarcastic suggestion literally, Buddy visits the Gimbels department store where the manager mistakes him for an employee.At the store's Santa Land, he meets Jovie, an unenthusiastic employee to whom he is instantly attracted.The Central Park Rangers, whom Santa had placed on the naughty list, chase the sleigh as Buddy tries to reattach the engine.Jovie leads the crowd in singing "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," helping raise enough Christmas spirit to fully power the sleigh.
Angry over the setback, Walter harshly disowns Buddy.