The Smurfs are smurfily preparing for the Blue Moon Festival. Clumsy (Anton Yelchin), being ever the outcast, is not allowed to play in the reindeer games. To show everyone he’s not worthless, he goes to collect smurfberry root for Papa Smurf (Jonathan Winters). In doing so, he leads Gargamel (Hank Azaria) and Azrael right into the village. Gargamel is trying to capture Smurfs to get their “essence,” which will make him the most powerful wizard ever.
As the Smurfs escape, Clumsy heads the wrong way. Papa Smurf, Smurfette (Katy Perry), Grouchy (George Lopez), and Gutsy (Alan Cumming) try to save him from the vortex. The group, along with Gargamel and Azrael, are sucked into New York City.
In New York, they meet Grace (Jayma Mays) and Patrick Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris). Patrick was recently promoted to head of marketing by his slave driver of a boss, Odile (Sofia Vergara), at a cosmetics agency. The Winslows, at first reluctantly, take in the blue man group and decide to help them return to their magical fairyland and escape the evil clutches of Gargamel.
Let me start by saying the kids loved this movie. They thought it was funny and smurftastic. I found it ironic that one of the big scenes takes place in FAO Schwarz, where the kids first discovered the Smurfs.
The movie lacks the campiness that made the Smurfs cartoon what it was. It tries to capture the feeling, but falls short. Part of this may be due to the live action aspect. I felt it also got a little heavy on message, sacrificing the smurfiness it should have had.
While I don’t fault the actors, I felt the story and execution were weak. Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris, and Sofia Vergara (in 3D!) did as smurfy as they could with what they were given. And the cast is full of comedy all-stars. (The cameos by almost everyone at Bravo TV were an unexpected surprise.) There were just too many holes and flat points in the writing. One quick example is the story arc with Gargamel and Odile with potential that started but was quickly tossed aside with no resolution.
As for the Smurfs, themselves? Grouchy seemed to be a vehicle for one-liners trying to liven up the film. Only, it seemed he was trying a little too hard at times. I don’t remember a Gutsy Smurf from the cartoon. (Nor do I remember there being actual words to the Smurf song. But we have some now.) And if they are all Papa Smurf’s children, where did Gutsy get his Scottishness from? (And whatever happened to Mama Smurf?) And Azrael seems a bit over the top. He was a little too anthropomorphic. I would have preferred to have him the way he was portrayed in the cartoon. Able to communicate his thoughts without turning into a CGI yukfest. But maybe I’m holding the original on too high a pedestal.
The way the movie was done reminded me of Alvin and the Chipmunks. But what The Smurfs lacked, though, was the humor that kept the adults engaged in the Chipmunks. I was waiting for it, but it just simply wasn’t there. (For any future makers of live action movies of cartoons from my childhood, please study the Chipmunks as to how to keep the paying audience members with you.)
The 3D was ok. It wasn’t obnoxious or pandering (as is my use of “smurf”), but I don’t know that it added a lot to the film, especially given the extra money you will shell out for it.
As I said before, your kids will probably really enjoy The Smurfs. But as an adult, I left feeling a little empty and disappointed. Like someone had destroyed a little bit of my childhood, stepping on the little mushroom house of my memory.
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