Anyone who’s kept an eye on recent box office dynamos like the Alvin and the Chipmunks or Transformers franchises won’t be surprised to find that another 80s cartoon, The Smurfs, has been given the big screen treatment.
Like most of Hollywood’s adaptations, The Smurfs has been given a budget that could put a dent into any Congressional Debt Relief plan, all without any expectation of quality in the final product. In that sense, The Smurfs might slightly exceed expectations, but by any other criteria the movie is hardly worth mentioning.
The Smurfs chooses the rote path of taking its idealistic television characters and transplanting them into the real world – in this case, New York City. All the while, they’re being hunted by a grown man named Gargamel who really hates Smurfs and, therefore, wants to murder all of them. I could also tell you about the Smurf Prophecy, but instead I’m just going to pretend that I didn’t actually watch a movie with something called a Smurf Prophecy in it.
But what, exactly, are Smurfs? From watching the film, this is all I can gather:
– They are literally one-dimensional characters. Each one has only one personality (after which they’re named and classified), thus preventing any of them from being relatable or interesting.
– Without reason, they insert the word “Smurf” all willy-nilly into conversation (I counted 39 superfluous uses of the word). For instance, the following sentence would sound completely normal to them – “Great Smurf! The Dr. Smurf told me I have terrible Smurf cholesterol, I hope don’t end up needing Triple Smurfpass Surgery! Smurf.”
– They’re annoying and I want them to shut up.
The Smurfs is defined by a complete unwillingness to play with the proven moneymaker formula of computer generated tiny things running about and creating a ruckus. At various points, poop jokes will be made (because poop is funny, I guess), and flat life lessons will be taught. The end.
It’s unfortunate, because this cast is capable of a lot more. The universally adored Neil Patrick Harris plays the typical grouchy-turned-appreciative host to the Smurfs with only just enough effort to get the job done.
And the voice talent, which includes Fred Armisen, Alan Cumming and Anton Yelchin, have all shown real talent elsewhere; but when they’re confined to reading a few stale lines of dialogue, there’s not much they can do. It says a lot when actors like these are only capable of delivering as good of a performance as acting newbie Katy Perry, who provides the voice for Smurfette.
All of this is indicative of the spirit that must have went into the making of The Smurfs. Director Raja Gosnell has churned out eight family-friendly movies over the past 14 years and is certainly literate when it comes to Filmmaking, but that hardly means he does it with any real skill or artistry.
The only thing that keeps The Smurfs from totally failing are some solid Visual Effects and a couple of decently assembled action sequences in which the little guys get into some silly hijinks. Watching these guys run around could be worse.