Elf 2: Why It Never Got Made

Elf 2 seems like a no-brainer sequel. But, there's a good reason it never happened.

By Drew Dietsch | Updated

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Elf 2 is the kind of sequel that seems like a no-brainer. The 2003 Christmas comedy Elf was a sizable hit, and the film’s popularity has cemented it as a modern holiday classic for many folks. Fans have been clamoring for a sequel but one had never manifested. And now, thanks to a recent interview with Elf co-star and James Caan, we have a better understanding as to why we never got more adventures with Buddy the Elf.

According to Caan, Elf 2 was a movie that the studio was interested in making. However, the reason a follow-up never got off the ground was due to a contentious relationship between Elf leading man Will Ferrell and the director, Jon Favreau (Iron Man, The Mandalorian). Caan says that the two did not get along and that stalled any attempts at getting another Elf film into development.

It is unfortunate to hear that Elf 2 could not happen because of the relationship between its star and director. There also seems to be a strong unwillingness from Ferrell to simply not do a sequel. Ferrell was quoted in an interview with The Guardian saying that he was offered close to $30 million to return as Budy the Elf but declined it. At the time, Ferrell said it was because he did not want to return and make a potentially bad movie. Now, it seems like his dislike of Favreau might have been another motivating factor.

What is interesting is that Favreau did not share the same reluctance about making Elf 2. Only four years ago, Favreau stated in an interview with Yahoo Movies UK that he was open to a sequel. He even vaguely teased ideas that would not require Ferrell to return as a leading man. Maybe those comments were informed by his allegedly negative experience working with Ferrell on the first movie. Still, Favreau also showcased similar feelings about not wanting to make a sequel due to the risk of potentially diminishing the original. Favreau even said that Elf might be the film he is most proud of making.

It is worth noting that Elf 2 would have joined a not-so-illustrious cadre of comedy sequels. There is something of an unwritten sentiment when it comes to comedy sequels and it is that none have ever matched or topped their predecessors. A sequel is always a difficult thing to construct because it has to deliver a similar experience to audiences while also feeling fresh. Doing that with comedy characters and premises is a lot harder than other genres. And looking at the comedy sequels Will Ferrell has been a part of – Anchorman 2, Zoolander 2, Daddy’s Home 2, and The LEGO Movie 2 – that theory would seem to hold water.

And maybe denying the world Elf 2 is a good idea. Ferrell’s recent string of films have been more miss than hit, and he has even been the worst part of recent projects like the Netflix comedy Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. His last few feature films have all performed poorly with critics and audiences. Though his presence as a comedy performer is still strong, his actual cinematic endeavors have been some of the weakest of his storied career. At this point, it seems like Elf 2 might not be the best idea if Ferrell’s level of quality remains where it has been for the last few years.

Still, it is no wonder why fans would want Elf 2. The original film is still as charming and fun to watch as it was when it premiered almost twenty years ago. Buddy the Elf will assuredly go down in movie history as one of Ferrell’s most iconic and beloved roles. And Elf was the film that proved to Hollywood that Jon Favreau was not only a competent director but a filmmaker who could really handle popular mainstream efforts. If not for the overwhelming success and legacy of Elf, it is very likely that Favreau would never have made Iron Man. And if that didn’t happen, it is worth arguing that the Marvel Cinematic Universe would never have come to be.

Elf 2 may not be happening due to some possible bad blood between Ferrell and Favreau, but that doesn’t take anything away from the original film. If that’s the cost of not having a sequel to Elf, it seems like an acceptable price to pay.