Now Showing on Cable: “The Smurfs”

Making its debut this weekend on Starz was last year’s CGI/Live action kid’s movie, “The Smurfs”.

Based on the 1980s cartoon (which in turn was based on a Belgian comic strip), “The Smurfs” takes a small handful of the creatures and has them magically teleported to our world. As they struggle to find a way to get back to their village, they’re pursued by the fiendish magician Gargamel and his cat Azreal, and struggle to find their way in this strange new, decidedly un-Smurfly environment.  

The question becomes, is “The Smurfs” Smurftastic? Or un-Smurfing-necessary?

When Clumsy Smurf wanders too far from the Smurf village and is spotted by Gargamel, the location of the Smurf’s hidden haven is revealed. The Smurfs are put on the run as Gargamel and Azreal trample their huts and chase them through the woods, trying to capture Smurfs in order to distill their magical blue essence out of them. During the escape a handful of them, led by Poppa Smurf, are sucked through a vortex that dumps them into New York’s Central Park.

Poppa, Clumsy, Grouchy, Brainy, Gutsy, and Smurfette are decidedly lost in a strange new world, but quickly manage to find their way to the home of human characters, played by Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays. The couple is expecting a child, and Harris has just received a promotion working for demanding taskmaster Sofía Vergara. You would think that having diminutive blue critters in your midst would complicate things, but Patrick and Mays take to them rapidly, the biggest issues being the fact that the Smurfs always use the word Smurf and they always sing the annoying Smurf theme song.

In fact, everything about this movie is way too simple, and I say that in full recognition of the fact that it’s a children’s movie. The plot boils down to the Smurfs need to get home before Gargamel gets them. All the characters are flat and nondescript. Patrick, Mays and Vergara flatline their way through this, and I didn’t find any of the voice acting for the Smurfs that memorable. Well… aside from Jonathan Winters, who does a great job of sounding really, really old.

The humor here is utterly bland. None of the smurfs are funny as characters, and they’re all intentionally annoying so that the movie can joke about how annoying they are. Which winds up being annoying. There’s lots of silly slaptstick as Clumsy can’t keep his balance, or the Smurfs almost get run over or trampled by things, and of course there’s the comedy of Gargamel’s abject failures.

The action sequences are utterly forgettable. And the live action/CGI mix served to highlight the shortcomings of the Smurfs for me. I realize they’re cartoon characters and it’s a kids movie, so perhaps I shouldn’t hold them to as high a standard, but I never once forgot that I was watching actors interacting with animation. Or thought that Azreal was believable as an almost talking cat. Maybe its something that shouldnt be expected, but I guess we’ve come a long way since “Roger Rabbit”, and now I’ve grown accustomed to a more seamless blend of reality and animation, even in our kids movies.

The most notable thing about this movie is the performance of Hank Azaria. Azaria underwent hours of daily make-up work in order to physically resemble Gargamel, including a prosthetic nose and ears, buck teeth, huge fake eyebrows and a wig. He does a spot on impersonation of the cartoon character, but, unfortunately, that’s probably better suited for small doses. Even though he provided the majority of the films sparse amusements for me, by the end I was finding him just as tiresome as the Smurfs themselves.

Just an unmemorable film that really would only have appeal for small children who haven’t developed “taste” in movies yet.

D

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19 thoughts on “Now Showing on Cable: “The Smurfs”

  1. I would give it a litle higher rating, like C, mainly because I was glad to see one of my favorites from the 80s.
    My boys enjoyed it which was surprising, but I was mostly disappointed with it. I think they have #2 already in the works. Hoping it will be better…..

  2. Well… even though I still don’t know why we’d want to see the Smurfs in New York in the first place, at least it sounds as though the movie was treating their world as a real thing and not a “cartoon world” the way Fat Albert, Rocky & Bullwinkle, and so many other terrible movies did. So that’s something. Doesn’t sound like it has any other redeeming values, though.

      • No, I don’t think you’re missing anything. Part of it is that all too often, there’s the assumption in the movie that the characters are from “a cartoon world” and not simply “a different real world that was depicted with cartoons”, which was how their respective shows were. So R&B, Fat Albert, etc., fail at the first step by drastically changing their source material.

        Masters of the Universe and the Smurfs (apparently) get a pass on that because they acknowledge the reality of the original world (and in MOTU, the existence of Earth was always a given anyway). But neither are great movies (although I do enjoy MOTU, and apparently Frank Langella really loved being Skeletor).

        Who Framed Roger Rabbit is probably the only good “cartoon in real world” movie because it’s one of only a handful for which the “cartoon world” is a given from the very beginning. The only other I can think of is Cool World, and that doesn’t have a very good reputation.

    • Just feeding the beast. LOL.

      Anyways, if all we ever review is films we like, we start looking like people who dont know how to give a bad grade, you know? So I didnt mind.

      Thanks though, buddy. :D

  3. Even NPH couldn’t get me interested in this pile of pants. I loved the Smurfs when I was a kid and will continue to love their little blue, cartoon selves.

  4. I was too old for it when they were popular and I didn’t get any younger, so I guess I’m too old for it now. But, when I become senile, I might find them amusing! (I’ll put it on my bucket list…no I won’t)

    • LOL… nicely phrased, and on TOP OF WHICH, they actually dumbed down their target audience to be even younger. Used to be say, 8-12, now its gotta be like 4-8, LOL

      So you’re double screwed!

      Well, at least til you cant tell the difference anymore!

  5. They had NPH dye his hair…
    I still don’t get that. I wanted him to just change into his HIMYM role to loven things up. At least Hank Azaria got enough screen time to make it bearable.

    The whole NYC seemed pointless to do. I feel like the studio was worried that no one would go see an actual Smurfs movie that was just the Smurfs and Gargamel running around in their world.

    I love animated films and this just sucked. I mean the animation was miserable to wach. I wish they would have just stuck with the 2D animation. Everything doesn’t need to be 3D.

  6. This movie was so full of plot holes, probably watching the shreds was the only point. Anyways, the intended audience was the pre-schoolers as you say, but I would still have not liked to introduce my kids to the Smurfs in this way.

    And just don’t tell me about that blasted cat! Who scripted such a horrible character?

    • Yeah, on top of which it really looked pretty bad at times, trying to blend the CGI “Talking” with a real cat… Ugh.

      It was just dreck, wasn’t it, Nishit? It’s like the whole time through they were saying, eh… that’s good enough. Kids’ll love it!

      Thanks for commenting! :D

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