Movie Review: The Smurfs in 3D
Yet another opportunity for me to feel extra creepy being the only lone adult male in a theater full of rug rats. If any studios want me to review their kids movies without forcing me to feel like I should be on some kind of list, start sending me copies. However, this theater was packed full so, while I was still creepy, at least there was a crowd to blend into.
So first of all I did this movie at the bequest of my best friend, Dave. He wanted my take on it. That being said, I probably would have seen it anyway so I can’t really complain to him too much. Secondly, I did used to watch the Smurfs on TV as a kid. I remember liking a few and hating most, and in part secretly rooting for Gargamel. He always struck me as a go forward, hard working kind of guy while most of the Smurfs seemed to laze about in a peacefully indolent lifestyle that only helped illustrate how much my life sucked at the time. However, I always liked Papa Smurf (replacement father figure, Dr. Freud?) and, since I would frequently build tiny villages with my Legos and then rampage through them like Godzilla tearing through Tokyo, I always like it when Gargamel would rip through Smurf Village (Godzilla image courtesy of the movie t shirt category).
Anyway, the movie was actually pretty Smurfy (and yes, I plan to beat that joke into the ground). It’s one of those rare kids films that actually has a level of entertainment for adults. Honestly, it was Gargamel who carried the film for me. The Smurfs did what Smurfs do; Smurfed together happily, sang that annoyingly Smurfy song, and ascribed stringently to the two dimensional stereotypical behavior denoted by their names. Brainy was the annoying know-it-all, Gutsy (a character they created for the film. I guess they didn’t want to use Hefty, although he surfaced later on. Maybe they were worried about being sued by Glad Bags) the thrill seeker, and Grouchy the group reality check (I mean downer). The only Smurfs that had anything resembling depth of character were Papa Smurf and Smurfette, if only because neither had their defining characteristics dictated by a name. Gargamel (the very talented Hank Azaria), however, was hilarious in every scene. He was vicious, crude, clever, witty, acerbic, cantankerous, and sarcastic at every turn, and they really put some effort into making his lines as funny as possible in hopes of keeping parents awake while they took their kids to see it. Even Azreal was great. I normally find animals given roles in films like humans lame (every talking dog and cat movie can officially bite me) but the way they did it added huge elements to the film.
The story is pretty basic, and reads like a two hour version of one of the cartoons. The film starts out like any number of the cartoons with Gargamel finding Smurf Village and unleashing unholy black robed hell on the little mushroom houses. At that point I suddenly realized the film could possibly not suck. The Smurfs flee, and Papa and a few others run into a cave where they get sucked into a magical vortex and are deposited in New York City. Gargamel pursues them (after tossing Azreal through first to make sure it’s safe) and the New York hijinks begin. The Smurfs befriend Patrick Winslow (played by one of my favorite actors, Neil Patrick Harris) and his pregnant wife Grace (Jayma Mays, whom I like a lot in spite of playing yet another ridiculous love interest for Kevin James in his mall cop movie). Meanwhile Gargamel is chasing them through the city. Apparently he wants to suck out the Smurf power essence, which seems different. If I recall correctly in the cartoons he started off wanting to eat them and then later found a recipe to turn them into gold.
Smurfy hijinks ensue. The Smurfs cause havoc in a toy store when every kid wants one. Papa Smurf has to figure out a way to Smurf the moon blue. Patrick works for a cosmetics firm run by a dragon lady and gets a Smurfy idea for an ad campaign from his little blue friends. Smurfette discovers there is more than one dress in the world. Azreal manages to get the last laugh, as he usually did in the cartoon.
First the stars. As much as I like to think of myself as a cold, soulless automaton I actually was pretty well overwhelmed by warm feelings of nostalgia as I watched this. One star. Neil Patrick Harris. One star. Decent story and dialogue. One star. Gargamel was Smurfing awesome in all regards. Two stars. With the exception of the blue power juice thing and a couple new characters added, the mostly kept to the original story (if only some comic book movie directors I could name could do that) including the origin story of Smurfette. One star. While the movie was sappy and sweet, at no point did I feel the director force feeding me honey to make it over the top sickening sweet pap. One star. The 3D didn’t give me a headache, and actually added a little to the experience. One star. All around a positive experience. One star. Total: nine stars.
Now the black holes. I knew this would happen going in, but I have to give the movie one for infecting my brain with that damned Smurf song. I woke up with it in my head. One black hole. The bitchy dragon lady running the cosmetics firm felt really fake and didn’t add anything to the movie. One black hole. Total: two black holes.
So a grand total of seven stars, and I feel really good about that. In the irksome category the only thing I have is not really the films fault, but the fact is the trailers for the other kids movies coming out soon made me weep for the youth of America. The new Spy Kids movie looks like it was designed to help kids stay back a year in school, and the rest of them blur in my mind of like a blender full of brain cell killing stupidity. As much as I think the Smurfs would be a good movie for kids, why does the rest of Hollywood treat children with the same respect you would give to the grout holding your bathroom tiles together? Is it really that hard to entertain kids without giving them crap?