Directed by: Raja Gosnell
Cast: Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, Hank Azaria
Running Time: 1 hr 30 min
Release Date: July 29, 2011
PLOT: A race of small blue creatures living in the forest are sucked through a portal and end up in New York City. So is their mortal enemy, Gargamel (Azaria). Luckily they are helped by a young couple.
WHO’S IT FOR? Kids.
EXPECTATIONS: Pretty low. There were a few funny moments in the trailer though.
Neil Patrick Harris as Patrick Winslow: Harris really tries to breathe life into a cardboard cut out of a character. Winslow is the VP of Marketing at a fictional cosmetics company. Wow, that’s totally a job that must appeal to kids, right? He deals with work problems while trying to keep the Smurfs in line, which is almost impossible. Smurfberries must be full of sugar because these guys are bouncing off the walls like crazy. I didn’t blame Patrick most of the time, he’s got a pregnant wife and a difficult boss, of course he’s busy with work! The Smurfs are terrible at problem solving, every time they have a goal things go awry. Even though I like Harris, his character just has so little there.
Jayma Mays as Grace Winslow: With her huge eyes, Mays already looks like a cartoon character. She and Harris make an adorable couple. Too bad she has nothing to do in this movie. She acclimates to the idea of the Smurfs way faster than you would expect, Harris’ freaking out seems more natural. Then she just gives motherly advice to Clumsy and Smurfette. It’s really awkward. Again, I like Mays but the part just goes nowhere.
Hank Azaria as Gargamel: Azaria totally looks like Gargamel, and he even captures a bit of his essence. Unfortunately, the filmmakers try to make him the comic foil for the film and it really doesn’t work. The only time he got a laugh was when he got hit by a bus. It’s not pretty.
TALKING: There are a couple of good lines, but most of the dialogue is awful. The Smurfs still use smurfy as an adjective for anything and everything. That’s about the best thing I can say for the script.
SIGHTS: The Smurfs are animated well, though it’s weird to see Smurfs who are’t 2D cartoons. I saw the film in 3D, but it seemed kind of pointless. There wasn’t much of a sense of depth throughout the movie. The only time I actually noticed the 3D was in a POV skateboard scene, and the portal scene (which looked kind of cool). But it was probably an afterthought to cash in on Avatar‘s popularity.
SOUNDS: Make the lalala-ing stop! The Smurf’s theme gets some time in the movie, most of the best jokes refer to their incessant singing. The voice artists who play the Smurfs all do an adequate job, including Jonathan Winters as Papa (who did the voice of Grandpa Smurf in the original series) and Katy Perry as Smurfette. But with little to work with in the way of a script, they don’t leave much of an impression.
BEST SCENE: Gargamel makes an older woman look younger (by removing wrinkles and restoring her hair color) to prove he’s powerful. It excites the women in attendance and for a moment, I felt like some cultural commentary was occurring. But that passed quickly.
ENDING: From about ten minutes in, you know what the ending will be. By the time we got there, I mostly felt relief that it was finally done.
QUESTIONS: Why did the studio decide to make a Smurfs movie? What were they going for? Why move it into the real world? Who did they think would actually enjoy this?
REWATCHABILITY: None. I doubt even young children would want to see this again.
When I was a kid, I remember going to see Addams Family Values which I was really excited about. The trailer looked really funny. But I was so disappointed, it was terrible. The only funny moments were in the trailer. That was the moment I became cynical about movie marketing. Still, I hoped that The Smurfs might be good, despite all evidence to the contrary, based on the trailer. I haven’t learned from my past.
The film opens in the Smurf village, and right from the start I just wasn’t interested. Gargamel is the protagonist, he wants to capture Smurfs, but rather than eating them (as he wanted to do in the cartoon), he wants to drain their magical essence. The film never explicitly states the Smurfs would die from this. I can’t imagine they would enjoy it though. For this he follows them through the magic portal to modern day New York to catch the six that are there. Why not go after the remaining 94 without a leader? In Manhattan he chases them and they try to get back, but mostly both groups create a lot of trouble. The film also plays fast and loose with New York geography. Patrick works at Rockefeller Center, but he passes a antiquarian bookstore in Chinatown (which is clearly Soho) on his way to work from Alphabet City. It sounds nitpicky, but the filmmakers disregard for any sort of logic is annoying. If you’re going to say he works in Chinatown, why show him entering (the very famous) Rockefeller Plaza?
Altogether, I just felt like no one involved in the making of the film really cared. It’s not funny, touching, interesting or watchable. If you have a child, they may sit through it but I doubt they’ll get much out of it. And adults, be prepared to suffer.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10