Recently saw the CGI animation film titled The Smurfs and there are three things I learned about this movie:
- Homeless men in bright hats may be wizards in disguise (in New York only)
- Advertising agents are expected to come up with entirely new campaigns in two days.
- Gay cowboy film references are perfectly appropriate for a children’s movie.
My first question: Where’s Puppy???
After another run-in with nemesis Gargamel the wizard, six Smurfs (Papa, Clumsy, Brainy, Smurfette, Grouchy, and Gutsy) accidentally take a portal to New York. Hijinks, adventure, and family drama with Doogie Houser abounds.
Ok, I admit it gladly. I know much more about the Smurfs than one would expect. I watched every episode back in the days of Saturday Morning cartoons and enjoyed them. However, I’ll also admit that when I heard a Smurf movie was coming, and that they travel to New York (no spoiler there, it was in the trailer), I dreaded it. I was a bit surprised at the film as a whole. Still, I’ll go with the negatives first.
The biggest drawback is the fact that the film isn’t very original. We’ve seen characters in New York (or LA, or wherever) before. It felt a bit lazy of the writers to do this particular plot. Another big, big dark spot is all the product placement. I mean, I know what laptop brand Neil Patrick Harris used in the film because they showed it to us about five times! All kinds of other product labels are thrust at us, so much that it really distracted me from the movie and my 13 year old noticed, too. Strangely, while it is acknowledged that the Smurfs comic strip exists on Earth, no one recognizes them by name. Add a little too much toilet humor and Gargamel seeming to be familiar with modern Earth phrases, and you have me getting a little annoyed.
However, none of those are enough to make the film actually bad. I found myself enjoying it. Someone made sure the Smurfs were portrayed the way we remembered them and their story was not changed at all. Smurfs are usually defined by one major characteristic, but the featured little guys all had moments to step out of their normal traits, which is more characterization than your average kids film. They make it a point for Harris’ character to mention some of the cornier, less believable things about the Smurfs, asking the same questions we did as kids (or that I did, anyway). They gave us Gutsy Smurf, a new creation. I groaned about having a Scottish accented Smurf wearing a kilt, but he was new and could do anything without copying old jokes (since there aren’t any for him), and I think they needed that newness. Finally, the film is honestly funny. It’s not as funny as ‘Shrek’ or ‘Cars’, but had me chuckling fairly often and belly laughing several times (one of them mentions a ‘Passive Aggressive Smurf’. He’s ok to talk to, but you always feel bad after!). To put it simply, the makers of the film had their own affection for the little blue people who are about three apples high, and it shows.
It isn’t a great masterpiece, but it is an enjoyable little film that has heart. And Hank Azaria as Gargamel really does put it all together nicely. I had my doubts before seeing The Smurfs , but they were all washed away partway through the film.
So yeah, anyone with fond memories of the Smurfs should enjoy this, and it is sweet and funny enough for parents to watch with their kids.