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Smurfs Movie
Reviewed by Joe Crowe, © 2012

Format: Movie
By:   Raja Gosnell (director)
Genre:   Smurfiness
Review Date:   January 13, 2012
RevSF Rating:   5/10 (What Is This?)

"Are you dead?" -- Gargamel

Yes. I paid money to see it. In the theater. I didn't wait for DVD like a punk. I could blame my daughter. But I am not the dad who pawns off my poor child on an innocent relative to see movies I suspect will be terrible. I own this. She and I see those things together. Let's make this happen, is what I say.

Because of this, I have seen a movie that no human should ever see. That movie is Marmaduke.

On the Marmaduke scale, Smurfs is one of the best movies I have ever seen.

It also has fart jokes!

I watched the Smurfs cartoon in the 1980s. We all did, you and I. Admit it. I hated it then, because when it was on, it was not time yet for the Mr. T cartoon to come on. But since then, I have grown a grudging respect for Smurfs.

Neil Patrick Harris pulled it from the swirling abyss of hatred that I anticipated I would have. His costar Jayma Mays, Emma on Glee, is also hard to dislike.

Jonathan Winters is the voice of Papa Smurf, and I love him in anything, by default.

Hank Azaria as Gargamel and three-apples-high cartoons as the Smurfs adapt the cartoons with almost deadly accuracy. Azrael the cat has his original voice from the cartoon, Frank Welker, but he's a real cat with a CGI head. That leads to some good anti-cat slapstick. That is always worthwhile.

The best part of the movie is the first few minutes, a live-action adaptation of the cartoon. The Smurfs sing their song, and wacky Smurf-jinks happen in Gargamel's lab and the Smurf village. The live-action village looks really neat.

So, of course, the movie stays there about four minutes.

Gargamel invades the village, and it's Godzilla in Tokyo, but with Smurfs.

The fun Smurf thing where they replace words with "smurf" is in the movie really often. Of course. If it were in it less, we would wonder if these people knew Smurfs at all.

But Neil Patrick Harris makes it work. He gets mad and yells at them, "Smurfity smurf smurf!" All the Smurfs recoil in shock, and one says, "There's no call for that sort of language."

When the Smurfs follow Gargamel to today, the smurf gets real. The action bits are pretty fun, with roller coaster point of view shots and slapsticky violence.

A Smurfing Lack of Smurfiness

Those are the smurfy parts. Some other things are not smurfy about this movie at all. Here is a partial list, ranked in degrees of grumpiness.

Narrator Smurf. A new Smurf is the movie voice "In A World" guy. He talks to the audience, taking me out of whatever Smurf-induced trance the movie put me in.

Smurfs talk a lot. When they walk, when they run, they talk over each other. The flood of dialogue is irritating, not funny, as if the director told the voice actors, "Say whatever you want, all at once, right now."

Most of that dialogue is terrible grown-up references, such as "Smurf to the no."

Appealing to grown-ups. Here is advice to makers of kids' movies who put in current references for the grown-ups who brought the kids: Don't do that.

Kids will have no smurfing idea what a reference means. But they'll wonder what it means, because the characters stop the whole movie to react with a pause or a double-take that is supposed to signify that humor has happened.

Katy Perry, the singer. Katy Perry the voice actress is not on trial here. She plays Smurfette adequately. But about 2 percent of the viewing audience read in TV Guide that she is the voice of Smurfette. So when Smurfette quotes a Perry song and says, "I kissed a girl and I liked it," then turns to the camera and winks, the remaining 98 percent are likely to be bewildered or terrified.

Gutsy Smurf. He's in a kilt and has red hair. He sounds like Groundskeeper Willie from Simpsons and does all the Groundskeeper Willie jokes. Did Hank Azaria, a real cast member of The Simpsons know this was going on?

Crazy Smurf. Another new Smurf, with no distinguishing feature as a Smurf must have. His name is "Crazy," yet he does nothing crazy. WTS, man? W.T.S.

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