Movie Review: The Smurfs (PG)

smurfsKernel Rating (out of 5): whole-popcorn-kernalwhole-popcorn-kernalhalf-popcorn-kernal

Length: 109 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG

Age Appropriate for: The definition of PG is "Some material may not be suitable for children under 10" and I'd pretty much agree. There is some violence, Gargamel can frequently be scary, and the Smurfs are often in danger. For the most part, I'd say the film is fine for kids age 5 and older, depending on their previous movie experience. The substitution of the word 'Smurf' as a verb in potentially inappropriate ways ("I'm done Smurfing around" etc) will be lost on most younger kids.

by Mary McCarthy, Editor

I was in grade school and high school during the whole “Smurf” phenomenon in the 80s. So yeah, I remember their basic storyline, but it’s been awhile. I was eager to find out how the three-apples-high blue guys would translate to the big screen (and 3D animation).

It takes a few minutes to get past their overly-digitized, blue-Shrek appearance versus the low-tech 80s animation we were used to as kids. Next you have to embrace the idea of Gargamel as a human- which technically he is in the 80s tv series, though he still appears animated to viewers.

The story is that Gargamel enters the delightful mushroomy Smurf village, smashing stuff and trying to catch them. A magic portal to (where else?) New York City is accidentally created, through which the villain, his cat, and six Smurfs (Papa, Smurfette, Brainy, Clumsy, Grouchy and Gutsy) are transported.

So now the Smurfs are in the real world-- especially the worlds of advertising executive Patrick Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris, who has great physicality for the role and manages not to look completely dorky when hugging a Smurf) and his wife Grace (Jayma Mays, who maintains her wide-eyed Mall Cop cuteness). Conflict comes in the form of Patrick’s boss Odile (played perfectly villainously by Sofia Vergara) and of course Gargamel (duh) trying the catch Smurfs. Commence action scenes, insert predictable, lazily-written plotline/ending and poof! You’ve got yourself a mediocre summer film to take the kids when it’s too hot outside and you have nothing better to do.

Hank Azaria does a decent job as Gargamel. One of his early lines “Where Papa Smurf lives with his 99 sons and 1 daughter- nothing weird about that” gave me hope his character would be sarcastic and fun the whole time, but his success with voices on the Simpsons doesn’t completely transfer to the big screen. He often thinks he’s funnier than he is and his timing is often awkward, but he has some genuinely funny moments that will keep the kids from being too scared of him and does have a nice ‘villain cartoonishness’ about him. His cat Azrael is wayyyyy over digitized (Garfield on steroids), but the kids are used to that these days, so the youngsters in the audience always laughed when he appeared; the funny cat helped temper Gargamel’s scariness.

Director Raja Gosnell pays homage to Smurf creator Peyo and his original “Les – Schtroumpfs” comic creation of the 1950s. 3D animation (for a change!) is used well a number of times throughout the film, versus simply being used as a tool to make more money on movie tickets.

I learned something in the film. Did you know Smurfette was created by Gargamel to try to trap Smurfs? Weird. Anyhoo, where she was openly flirty back in the day, she is now sort of boring and, voiced by Katy Perry, actually utters the words “I kissed a Smurf and I liked it,” (I was thinking she maybe meant Sassette, her ginger haired gal pal from the original series) and another enthusiastic line of hers is “I’ve never had a girlfriend before.” Looks like the Smurf boys may not have much of a chance with her, and mostly in the film she is sort of useless and just cares about getting a new dress in NYC. Yawn, Smurfette. They should have let her save a Smurf or SOMETHING.

Perhaps needless to say, the most fun part of the movie for 80’s parents bringing kids who barely know what a Smurf is (beyond the commercials they’ve been seeing lately) is how far the scriptwriters will go in using the word ‘Smurf’ in a clandestinely vulgar way. Kids will love the ‘Alright, who Smurfed?’ fart joke, but I definitely snickered at things like how the Smurfs “didn’t miss Passive Aggressive Smurf,”  “Prepare to get Smurfed” and “up a Smurfin creek without a paddle.”

Parents will probably find themselves replacing words they aren’t supposed to say in front of the kids with the word “Smurf” after seeing the film- and of course whistling the inevitable “La La Lalalala” song, too. All in all? Not terrible, not great.

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