Directed by Raja Gosnell
As someone who grew up with The Smurfs on tv and in comic books, I can say that I enjoyed them very much. I fondly remember watching the smurf cartoons over the years, and reading the various comics (favorite one – Astronaut Smurf, where all the other smurfs became Swoofs and it was a big wish fulfillment fantasy to help some random Smurf.) So like most young adults, I looked at the upcoming live-action Smurfs movie with trepidation – would yet another thing from my youth be turned into an embarrassment? Maybe even make me feel blue? (Sorry, was forced by law to add that joke!)
Thanks to the fact I’m awesome as smurf, the wife and I got to go to a free advanced screening of The Smurfs in 3D! But I’m not going to let a little thing like free tickets turn my review to a positive, any positive remarks are earned by the film the hard way: entertaining me. So sit back and enjoy TarsTarkas.NET’s first foray into reviewing a mainstream film that isn’t even out yet! Next up: Reviewing a film that doesn’t even exist yet (It Stinks!)
The Smurfs first appeared in Johan and Peewit stories from the Belgian cartoonist Peyo (Pierre Culliford) in 1959, and they proved popular enough they were headlining their own stories and soon an industry. Smurfs are called Schtroumpfs in their native Belgium, so keep that in mind. The Smurfs are usually hunted by their main adversaries Gargamel and Azrael, Gargamel is a wizard who is after them for reasons that don’t remain consistent (originally it was to create the philosopher’s stone from them, then it became to eat them, then to turn them to gold, and then just pure revenge for the years of failure.)
The best parts of The Smurfs are when there are a whole pack of Smurfs. The opening sequence (also one of the few instances where the 3D is worth it) is awesome enough you want a whole movie set in the magical Smurf village and ancient kingdom. The village feels alive and like you could easily stmble across it in the woods one day and have magical adventures with your new three-apple-high blue friends. But soon enough we are sucked to modern New York City with only six Smurfs keeping us company.
Like the Masters of the Universe film, Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time, and Aliens vs. Predators, budget restraints forces the film to bring the action to modern day USA. This concept has happened enough it’s been lampooned (in Disney’s great Enchanted), but it also disappoints those expecting a sweeping story set in the world of the Smurfs. And though Smurfs is a kids movie, there will be plenty of adults in the audience bringing those kids, many who grew up watching those same Smurfs Tra-la-la-la-la-la they’re way across their tv screens. Raja Gosnell has experience bringing cartoons to the silver screen, having directed the first two Scooby-Doo films (along with Beverly Hills Chihuahua!)
The main focus of The Smurfs is a bit muddled. Besides the Fish Out of Water story, he script tries to graft a Hero Arc into the film (with Clumsy), but it’s also competing with a Coming of Age Story, Proving Yourself to your Jerk Boss, and Realizing You Should Spend Time With Family and Not Work stories. So it’s sort of all over the place.
Despite the mish-mash, the film isn’t a total loss, and I ended up liking it. Neil Patrick Harris is still charming despite some of his character’s bad writing, and Gargamel and Azrael help save large stretches of the film with both scenery chewing and cartoon antics (this is a cartoon-turned live-action film, after all!) The kids in the audience were paying enough attention at the end that they were really invested in the final battle.
|Papa Smurf (Jonathan Winters) – The 500 year old patriarch of the Smurfs, Papa Smurf watches over his children like the kindly old father everyone wishes they had. Papa Smurf also channels Roger Murtaugh, as he keeps saying he’s too old for this (neither time do they add “smurf” to the end, which makes the repetition of the line more annoying.) Jonathan Winters is perfect for this role, the voice is exactly what you expect Papa Smurf to sound like.
|Clumsy Smurf (Anton Yelchin) – Clumsy Smurf is the ultimate kltz, but one day he will be a hero! Probably during this movie. Anton Yelchin is a nice choice for Clumsy, because of the character’s story arc you needed someone with a voice not recognizable. And it just so happens Anton Yelchin was in a bunch of movies recently…
|Smurfette (Katy Perry) – Smurfette’s origin as a creation of Gargamel is kept in this film version much to my delight, and she is haunted by her origin even to this day. Besides the singular line “I kissed a smurf and I liked it”, Katy Perry probably could have been replaced by your mom and it wouldn’t have mattered despite the character’s large role in the film, as she brings nothing.
|Brainy Smurf (Fred Armisen) – Brainy Smurf is the annoying know-it-all who is constantly smacked around by his brethren for being so annoying. And he still is, but he also does something actually brainy in the film.
|Gutsy Smurf (Alan Cumming) – I guess because some of the writers worked on Shrek 2, they just needed to have a random Scottish smurf for no reason. Thus, we get Gutsy Smurf, who is basically Hefty Smurf in a kilt. And as Hefty Smurf is in the smurfing film, Gutsy seems even more pointless. Kids love jokes about haggis, I guess.
|Grouchy Smurf (George Lopez) – Grouchy becomes slightly more than a character who just says “I hate [whatever you are talking about]”, but is still the least used of the main character smurfs. Loves green M&Ms
|Gargamel (Hank Azaria) – Gargamel is the evil wizard after the smurfs, and Hank Azaria plays him to a T. He’s a cartoon character brought to life, and he’s awesome. Gargamel and Azrael save large sections of the film from complete boredom, and do it in style.
|Azrael (Mr. Krinkle and Frank Welker) – Azrael is Gargamel’s cat and constant companion. Played by a real cat with plenty of CG enhancements, Azrael is one cool cat.
|Patrick and Grace Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays) – The Winslows are the typical American family that the Smurfs end up crashing with as they deal with this strange new world. She’s got a bun in the oven, and he’s focus on work and full of worry.