Elf is without a doubt my favorite Christmas movie. I identify wholeheartedly with Buddy’s unabashed excitement about the entire holiday season. I love the way the film imagines the North Pole (which can sometimes look a little too much like a sweatshop in some depictions). I swoon over the decorations in my hometown of N.Y.C.
Infatuated as I am with the film, though, I can’t pretend that it’s not without flaws. First, there’s the classic holiday movie dilemma where Santa Claus exists, but parents somehow don’t believe in him (who do they think leaves the presents?!). But the skeptical parents are far from the only plot hole in this holiday classic. Keep scrolling for 10 more things that simply don’t make sense about this movie.
1. How did the elves know Buddy was from the orphanage?
When a baby crawled out of Santa’s sack, the elves immediately knew that he must have snuck into his bag in “the orphanage.” And instead of return him home, they decided they had no choice but to keep him and raise him as one of their own?
Buddy was a baby, so it’s likely he wouldn’t have any memory of seeing Santa’s workshop, if that’s what they were worried about. Plus, wouldn’t sending a grown man who thinks he’s an elf to New York City alone be more problematic than just sending a baby back to his crib before sunrise?
2. If the parents don’t think Santa exists, who do they think delivers the presents?
This one is a problem in most holiday movies, not just Elf. But if Walter Hobbs is so adamant that Santa isn’t real (and Buddy’s not an elf), then how does he explain away the skateboard that was left for his son under the tree on Christmas morning? Why is he not more concerned?
3. Why did Buddy have a picture of his parents in his diaper?
It makes sense that Buddy, an orphan, might have had a picture of his parents placed by his crib. But why was that picture put inside his diaper to make its way to the North Pole? Ouch.
4. When Buddy gets to the Empire State Building, he presses every single button to light it up “like a Christmas tree.” Why wouldn’t the man in the elevator with him just get out and find a new one?
In a building as large as the Empire State building, there’s no doubt more than one elevator for employees to use. Unless that guy really wasn’t in a rush, he would have gotten out and found a new way to get upstairs rather than ride the whole way up with Buddy. Not exactly a plot hole, but really?
5. Why didn’t the employees in Gimbel’s realize that Buddy’s costume was different than theirs?
Or, you know, that they had never seen him before? Will Ferrell’s kind of a hard guy to miss.
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6. Why is Buddy so bad at being an elf but so good at crafting in the real world?
The first few minutes of the movie are dedicated to demonstrating how terrible Buddy is at most things elves are good at. But once he gets to Gimbel’s (and later Walter Hobbs’s apartment), he’s ridiculously good at crafting and decorating. Is the learning curve between elves and humans really that big? Elves and DIY superstars seem to have pretty similar task lists.
7. Why does the department store have showers?
Aside from the massive plot hole that Gimbel’s probably wouldn’t have locker rooms complete with showers, couldn’t we have had Jovie and Buddy sing that magical “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” duet in a less creepy place?
8. How did they do a paternity test immediately in a physician’s office?
Doesn’t this kind of testing require time ... and a different kind of doctor?
9. Where was Buddy keeping his red pajamas?
In the beginning of the film, we see Buddy travel down from the North Pole to Manhattan in an epic travel montage, and not once did we get a glimpse of him carrying a bag of belongings. When he arrives at his dad’s apartment, he changes into a pair of red footy pajamas that we can almost guarantee Walter didn’t buy for him. So Buddy, where oh where were you keeping those PJs?
10. Walter’s publishing house is just going to steal Miles Finch’s best idea with no real consequences?
After Buddy calls Miles an “angry elf,” the writer storms out of Walter’s publishing house, refusing to work with him but accidentally leaves his notebook behind. Walter’s employees find it and write a draft based on Miles’s best idea. This is plagiarism, no? Have fun getting sued, Walter Hobbs.
11. When Santa is mid-flight on Christmas Eve, it’s seemingly early evening in New York City.
When Santa crashes in New York’s Central Park, it should be the middle of the night when kids are asleep. But during that same scene, Walter Hobbs’s employees are still at work, their building’s mail room is full of people, and little Carolyn is awake in her room watching the news. Seems like Santa flew over Manhattan at the wrong time if he really didn’t want to be seen.