The Smurfs Movie Review
Just when you thought Neil Patrick Harris was the coolest straight gay guy around, he goes and stars in The Smurfs, a live-action adaptation of the popular 80's cartoon series. Like so many other attempts to find new magic in old children's material, The Smurfs comes up short. Kids may be marginally satisfied by the adventure at hand, however.
"May" is the key word here. The problem film critics - including posers such as me - face when reviewing children's movies is that they are restricted by their own viewpoints. And they are almost always adults. Some try to review the movie from a kid's perspective, but it's all just guesswork. Ultimately, children's movies are rated on how well they will appeal to adults.
From a little kid's perspective - and this is all guesswork - The Smurfs could be entertaining. Entertaining enough, at least. The movie follows the little blue creatures as they are sucked through a vortex and deposited into New York City, their arch-nemesis Gargamel (played by a goofy Hank Azaria) hot on their tails. They get into all kinds of zany situations as they attempt to get back home, and nearly ruin the life of humans Patrick and Grace Winslow (played by NPH and Jamya Mays).
Zany situations. Little blue creatures. Hank Azaria. Children will enjoy that, right? Sure.
But that's only guesswork. From an adult's perspective, a perspective I can speak from with authority, The Smurfs misses the mark. I grew up with the little blue guys - and Smurfette - but I don't remember a whole lot about them. But placing the Smurfs in New York City with humans who are dealing with real-life problems is just wrong. Why do kids care about whether a guy's marketing campaign is effective? Whether he's going to lose his job or not? Whether his pregnant wife is pissed off at him? The Smurfs gets bogged down with the problems of inconsequential human characters and human stories.
More importantly, the Smurf-only action and comedy is flat. None of the jokes are funny, not even amusing. The antics they get into are routine, nothing that hasn't been seen in other cartoon adaptations over the last several years. The movie comes and goes without ever showing a spark of ingenuity or true creativity.
The Smurfs should have been a fully CGI cartoon. It should never have involved real-life actors or be set in a real city. It should have been imaginative and magical, fun and insanely goofy. It should have at least tried to define itself, not simply follow formula.
The Smurfs could have been worse. And for little kids (under 10), it's perfectly harmless, a way to pass 90 minutes. But it's not good, even as far as children's movies go.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.