The Smurfs stumble on the big screen

Things are not as smurfy as they should be in the Smurf village. Once a cuddly phenomenon that holds a special place in the heart of most 40-somethings, the much anticipated big-screen adaptation stumbles. It’s very big, it’s awfully blue … but there just isn’t a whole lot of smurf in its heart.

Neil Patrick Harris stars as a Manhattan ad executive who finds his home invaded by some very tiny and very charming blue creatures in The Smurfs.

Neil Patrick Harris stars as a Manhattan ad executive who finds his home invaded by some very tiny and very charming blue creatures in The Smurfs.

Things are not as smurfy as they should be in the Smurf village. Once a cuddly phenomenon that holds a special place in the heart of most 40-somethings, the much anticipated big-screen adaptation stumbles. It’s very big, it’s awfully blue … but there just isn’t a whole lot of smurf in its heart.

Exactly why The Smurfs was missing that nostalgiac feel-good vibe was lost on me for a while, That is, until I took note of the film’s director, a guy by the name of Raja Gosnell. He’s the man behind Scooby Doo, Beverly Hills Chihuahua and a handful of other family flicks that mash talking animals with unfunny jokes to make less-than-inspiring tales. Gosnell doesn’t adapt cartoons into live action features, he simply makes live action features nothing more than cartoons. With this guy around, suddenly Gargamel isn’t the biggest problem on the block.

Not that, quality filmmaking aside, The Smurfs doesn’t give it the old smurf try. Famous voices are brought in (I really thought Jonathan Winters was a sweet choice for Papa Smurf, George Lopez makes for an animated Grouchy Smurf and Katie Perry scores probably the most borderline gag of the flick, admitting that she “kissed a Smurf and liked it.” Get it?) and Hank Azaria goes typically over-the-top as the bad guy — still, for a movie that takes pride in being blue all over, the concept is 100 per cent bland vanilla.

The plot has a few of the Smurfs, while (as usual) being chased by Gargamel (Azaria), getting sucked through a magic portal into New York’s Central Park. Through a series of misadventures, they wind up in the apartment of a frenzied Manhattan ad executive (Neil Patrick Harris) and his pregnant wife (Jayma Mays). Gargamel and his devious cat hunt for them, find them, chase them, lose them, find them again, chase them again, lose them again, look for them once more, find them, chase them …see a trend here?

Any effort for The Smurfs to be genuinely charming is lost in the film’s obvious efforts to sell Happy Meals. The story, the script and the execution is uncreative and, quite frankly, pretty lazy. That said, your kids will inevitably dig it: it has a relatively short running time and the pace, seeing as every second scene is a tiny blue creature running away from a cat, is obviously swift. But as a kid who once loved the Smurfs, I’m more than a bit disappointed. Or, better put, I’m blue.

Out of a possible five stars, I’ll give The Smurfs a two. The feature is currently playing at the Pen-Mar Cinema Centre in Penticton.

Jason Armstrong is a movie reviewer living in the Okanagan.

 

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