Elijah Wood started his career with a couple of smaller parts in the late 1980s, appearing first in a one-scene role in Back to the Future Part II, before garnering attention playing the sons of Aidan Quinn in the Barry Levinson drama Avalon and of doper cop William Baldwin in Internal Affairs. He was quickly noted for his remarkable authenticity in conveying vulnerability and intensity for such as young boy, which led to him being cast in his first major role in Paradise (1991), where he excelled with young co-star Thora Birch. He not only held his own opposite Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, who played his parents, but at times carried them. It was an outstanding performance for which he received his second Young Artist Award nomination plus a nom for Most Promising Actor from the Chicago Film Critics Association.
The next few years would be a tour de force of fine performances for Wood, who in this period was dubbed by Chicago Sun-Times film critic Rober Ebert as being "the most talented actor in his age group in Hollywood history". He exhibited depth in Richard Donner's exceptional Radio Flyer (1992), vivaciousness in the title role of Disney's The Adventures of Huck Finn (1993) and maturity in Jon Avnet's underappreciated The War. For Radio Flyer he also won the Young Artist Award, for which he was nominated a total of six times.
1996 represented a shift for Wood, who with Flipper moved on to adolescent roles. As with many talented child actors, he took some time settling in and creating a new screen persona for himself. Although films such as Ang Lee's The Ice Storm (1997) arguably helped him along. He also appeared as Dodger in the TV movie Oliver Twist (1997), before doing a respectable job as one of the leads of the diaster flick Deep Impact with Morgan Freeman and Robert Duvall. He continued with accomplished bits in the horror film The Faculty and the acclaimed indie movie The Bumblebee Flies Anyway, both from 1998.
Then two years later, Wood went from well-known talent to global superstar after being cast as Frodo Baggins in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. And both new and old fans of Tolkien's books hailed Wood for his neurotic, devoted rendition of Frodo. In the period following his newfound fame, Wood has often chosen roles in independent productions. And although he arguably isn't blessed with the looks or physical presence to ever become a traditional movie star, he has the versatility, intelligence and sensibility to be able to carve himself a long and solid career in the business.
"'Paradise' does have real qualities. Two of them are the kids, played by Elijah Wood and Thora Birch with strong, simple charm." - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, on Paradise.
"As Mike and Bobby, Wood (Paradise) and Joseph Mazzello are excellent." - Leah Rozen, People Magazine, on Radio Flyer.
"Wood is an almost scarily accomplished little pro." - Jay Carr, Boston Globe, December 16, 1992, on Forever Young.
"Elijah Wood brings a naturalness to his acting that at times is completely disarming. Perhaps Mel Gibson should have paid more attention to the familiar adage that actors should never work with animals or children because they are likely to be upstaged. As he did in Radio Flyer (1992), Wood manages to evoke all the right emotions, furthering the story as a result. His performance is in direct contrast to the rather uneven acting of Gibson, who treats some of the more dramatic moments with inappropriate lightness. Since Wood can clearly hold his own with such a seasoned professional as Gibson, Wood's career as an actor is assured." - Richard Cormack, Prodigy Online Services, on Forever Young.
"Good-hearted Huck is the most engaging urchin in American literature, and in scamp-and-a-half Elijah Wood he comes to life more than he ever has before.... Not even Mickey Rooney and Jackie Coogan, who starred in two of the earlier versions, captured the spunk and the spirit of the boy who wouldn't be civilized in quite the way Wood has.... With a face lively even in repose and eyes like great dark saucers, Wood displays more of an irrepressible imp persona than he showed in 'Avalon' and 'Radio Flyer'. Yet it is not just his wholehearted relish for pranksterism that sets this Huck apart, it is his air of capability and self-possession. This is one small boy whose survival on his own is not at all hard to believe." - Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times, April 2, 1993, on The Adventures of Huck Finn.
"Huck is played by Elijah Wood, from 'Radio Flyer' and 'Forever Young', who mercifully seems free of cuteness and other afflictions of child stars, and makes a resolute, convincing, Huck." -- Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, April 2, 1993, on The Adventures of Huck Finn.
"[Elijah Wood is] a talented young actor who acquits himself well even under these dire circumstances." - James Verniere, The Boston Herald, September 24, 1993, on The Good Son.
"Second-billed Wood is a far better actor [than Macaulay Culkin], and his scenes with Culkin bring the child star's limitations into painful relief." - CineBooks Motion Picture Guide, on The Good Son.
"Mr. Wood is currently the most natural, confident child actor of his generation... He's very likable throughout, and Mr. Reiner has surrounded him with a good deal of comic relief." -Janet Maslin, New York Times, July 22, 1994, on The War.
"Elijah Wood has emerged, in my opinion, as the most talented actor in his age group in Hollywood history." - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, on The War.
"Elijah Wood--that terrific little actor--has the spunk and fury to make Stu into more than just a peacenik. ...His performance resembles a champion swimmer paddling through heavy molasses." - Peter Rainer, The Los Angeles Times, November 4, 1994, on The War.
"The most satisfaction the movie offers is the spectacular acting of Wood, 13, who is the best under-20 actor since Freddie Bartholomew." - Ralph Novak, People Magazine, on The War.
"Elijah Wood confirms his standing as the foremost actor of his generation. ...Wood acts so eloquently with his sentient face and searching eyes that his job becomes one of concealing how redundant his spoken lines are - a tricky job he largely is able to bring off commendably." - Jay Carr, The Boston Globe, on The War.
"In Jon Avnet's mesmerizing 'The War', young Master Wood is giving acting lessons all around.... I prefer to ponder the wonder of Elijah Wood, who manages to bring tremendous restraint - an inner simmering - to a role that, with a lesser actor, could have gone out of control.... Sometimes a great performance is just a onetime occurrence, and sometimes it is a flash of things to come. Right now, Wood is blinding us." - Rod Lurie, Los Angeles Magazine, on The War.
"Young Wood is an exceptionally talented actor; his career is likely to survive both The War and the disastrous North." - CineBooks Motion Picture Guide, on The War.