The Smurfs

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"Do not be fooled by their cuteness! "

Aug 09, 2011

Why on Earth did I watch this? It's a good question it's not really the type of film I'd personally go to the cinema to see. In fact it's not really the type of film I'd buy on DVD. The fact is I went to see this purely to write a review on it for Cocaine and Popcorn. I'll admit I prefer writing reviews for bad movies they give me so much more to write about. Everyone (at least Londoners) loves a good moan (and rioting apparently). A lot of the movies I've reviewed for the site thus far have actually been quite good. Thats why I intentionally picked something I knew had to be bad. Only it wasn't. The Smurfs is quite good.

I know of the Smurfs but I can't say I was a big fan of the cartoon when I was Younger. I had seen the show casually and enjoyed what I saw but growing up I was more of a Thundercats and He Man fan.

I know the Smurfs live in a village. I know a guy called Gargamel wants to catch them for some reason. I know they annoyingly sing the same song over and over. I know they use the word smurf as a substitute for random dialogue. But most of all I know they there is only one female smurf (the ideas that throws up doesn't bare thinking of). I know more than enough information to know the basics without holding any kind of nostalgia for the original toon.

I must say I'm not a fan of this new live action craze that has arisen lately. Studios acquire the rights to old cartoons and bash out any old toot. In the hope to cash in on adults hoping to revisit their youth with their own kids. From Tranformers and G.I Joe to the worst offenders Alvin and the Chipmunks and Yogi Bear they are all lazy movie creations. The Smurfs from the trailer looked just like its brethren, an absolute joke.

What starts out following the plot of a typical episode quickly changes pace giving us more a parody of the old shows conventions. Gargamel attacks the Smurf village and through a series of events a couple of the Smurfs and Gargamel himself get transported to our world. Hiding in the house of none other Neil Patrick Harris (he plays a guy called Patrick but clearly still NPH) the Smurfs work on a way to transport themselves back home.

When I first saw this plot in the trailers I was a little confused. What was the point of setting the film in New York? Especially for a first movie. Alvin and the Chipmunks and Yogi Bear (although absolute crap) at least tried to recreate similar elements of a typical cartoon episode. The Smurfs have yet to be established; it seemed like an odd thing to do. Then it started to make sense. The world of the Smurfs in all truth is kind of shit. It's a village of Smurfs with very few people around (aside from Gargamel).If the story took place here the film may as well just have been an animated movie. Having the Smurfs in a fish out of water story (like Just Visiting) allowed for outsiders commentary on the bizarre aspects of the original cartoon.

What makes this film a joy to watch is the playful way outsiders question the Smurfs way of life and mannerisms. I'll reveal one here but the fun is comes from unexpected questions raised. NPH asks about where they get their names from (such as Brainy, Grouchy, etc.) and whether they are given their names at birth and develop similar traits or if they are named on the traits they display. The answers played for laughs but most of this film is.

Reducing The Smurfs down to just a couple allows us to get to know each one better as individual characters rather than just the caricatures their names suggest. Katie Perry voices Smurfette. and I must say I was really impressed with her voice over work. Bringing the character to life I took the character as its role rather than the stunt casting that many cartoons now use. Even when delivering the line I kissed a Smurf and I like it I actually raised a smile. Her character is also given and origin story that fits so well in the Smurf universe it's a surprise it was never actually part of the original show.

The moments with NPH and the Smurfs are great but his subplot about his work place not appreciating him is quite dull and a cliché plot device used in many family movies. I will say a couple of interactions between his Boss (Sofia Vergara) and Gargamel (or Garbage bag as she calls him) was a blast.

No matter how fun it was to see NPH, Hank Azaria really steals the show with his portrayal of Gargamel. It's as if he was lifted straight from the cartoon. The crazy shenanigans his character gets up too are just as interesting as when the Smurfs are on screen. Usually in these CGI fests the parts without the main characters are a bore but Azaria raised the bar for similar productions. The scene where he interacts with Vergara onscreen mother had me laughing out loud.

I would brand this more of a family film rather than a kid's movie as there is a lot for adults to enjoy in a similar vein to Shrek. The humour throughout is quite risqué but tame enough to go other the little ones heads.

This may have ripped off the storyline from Enchanted but I actually preferred this to the hugely successful Disney release. If you're considering what film to take the kids to this summer I can whole heartedly recommend this. It may not be the greatest movie made but for my money it was a fun way to spend 90mins (only once mind you I have no desire to buy this) For the first time in a long time (probably since the original Shrek) a family film has been made that can entertain the adults as well as the kids. Bring on the Smurfing sequel.

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