With Susie humiliated and increasingly distant from her dad, the script then takes a left turn into more fantastical territory when the film’s narrator, Papa Elf (Newhart), is kidnapped mid-sentence by the film’s claymation villain Koal Kringle, a kind of evil Santa/Grinch figure. While Buddy’s family woes continue, he’s soon alerted to Papa Elf’s kidnapping by Leon the Snowman. Though he initially vacillates, telling Leon “I’m not Buddy, I’m Brian.” He’s soon swayed and heads off to Switzerland to meet a global network of Santas who gather at Christmas HQ in a scene that appears ripe for cameo appearances.
It’s thus up to Buddy to not only save Papa Elf and rescue Christmas but also win favor with his daughter again. It’s not a massive spoiler to say he achieves all three while also getting his own back on Mr. Spicer who ends up being given a live monkey at Christmas who proceeds to immediately attack him. Armstrong’s script is undoubtedly littered with comedic potential, much of which would have likely been ironed out further in any subsequent rewrites by Ferrell, McKay, or Favreau, among others.
Yet the crux of what made Elf funny as a fish-out-of-water tale often feels secondary to what is largely a family drama. While the original undoubtedly dealt with Buddy’s family issues and feelings of abandonment, Elf’s emotional notes remained secondary to the comedy. The biggest issue with the sequel script, if any, is that two-thirds of it centers on establishing Buddy’s issues with his daughter, leaving little time to explore the more inventive elements introduced in the final third, e.g. the global network of Santas and Koal Kringle.
More noticeable still, the film suffers from the absence of James Caan’s character Walter and his family, who previously played a key role in the first film. Once again though, the script posted online was only a first draft and would have likely undergone multiple changes. Ultimately, however, the project was DOA from the minute Ferrell appeared to have a change of heart about making the movie.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter about the proposed project and the fact he was reportedly offered $29 million to star, Ferrell said, “I would have had to promote the movie from an honest place, which would’ve been, like, ‘Oh no, it’s not good. I just couldn’t turn down that much money.’ And I thought, ‘Can I actually say those words? I don’t think I can, so I guess I can’t do the movie.’”
Ferrell has made sequels to several of his hits before, so his response was something of a surprise. However, a further explanation during an appearance on What Happens Live With Andy Cohen hinting at some concerns over the premise of returning to the role as a dad adjusting to suburbia.