The SmurfsWednesday 10 Aug 2011
Director: Raja Gosnell
Starring: Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, Jonathon Winters, Anton Yelchin, Katy Perry, Alan Cumming, Fred Armisen, George Lopez, Sofia Vergara
Duration: 102 minutes
It's been a long smurfing time since we've had something new from the land of Smurf, meaning that their latest big screen outing not only has to appeal to new kids, but also to old ones who are fans of the original TV series and comic books.
Thankfully, this movie gets plenty of things right.
The opening sequence, introducing the Smurfs and their mushroom village, is a jaunt with plenty of childish giggles along the way. The jokes in this opening section may not have as much for adults as other kids' movies, but The Smurfs makes amends when the CG characters slot into the live action world. It's hard to tell what is CG and what is real at first, with Gargamel's (Azaria) cat a real highlight.
The story opens in standard Smurf style with Gargamel searching for the Smurf village in his quest to destroy them. The Smurfs, meanwhile, are preparing for the Blue Moon Festival. Their preparations are not helped by the calamitous presence of Clumsy (Yelchin), while Papa Smurf (Winters) is busy obsessing about a foreboding vision.
As all this is going on, Gargamel manages to find the Smurf village. Considering how many times Gargamel has failed to find the Smurf village in all the other Smurf tales, he finds it rather easily here, but it all simply serves as an excuse for him to chase some of the Smurfs through a magical portal which lands them in modern day New York City, the product placement capital of the world.
Once in New York the Smurfs soon find themselves allying with Patrick and Grace Winslow (Harris and Mays). The Winslows try to help the Smurfs find their way home while Gargamel hunts them through the city.
Azaria's acting is incredibly hammy throughout - precisely what is required here. His over-the-top gurning is exactly what you'd expect from Gargamel, although he deserved stronger material - some of the fish-out-of-water jokes are stretched a little thin.
While Azaria is mostly acting at a distance from his blue co-stars, Mays and Harris have a much more awkward time, and the difficulty of interacting with CG characters shows in their performances. This is most apparent in the contrast between Harris' unusual rigidity when acting with the Smurfs as opposed to the relative ease he shows when dealing with the subplot about pressure from his overbearing boss (Vergara).
That said, The Smurfs has plenty of jokes for the kids and enough to keep a smile on the faces of the adults. And while there are some departures from the source material, there's nothing too drastic.
The biggest problem on-screen is one of marketing. The fact that Harris is playing a marketing executive really draws attention to that profession and about halfway through, the film turns into a giant advert for the inevitable merchandise set to follow its release. The sequence with scores of kids chasing the Smurfs through a toy store is about as subtle as a brick.