Saturday, 27 August 2011

'Final Destination 5 3D' Review

'Final Destination 5 3D' (dir: Steven Quale, 2011) Cert: 15

So we all thought this franchise would end after it's last installment; the aptly named 'The Final Destination' in 2009 but we thought wrong. Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema have given 'Avatar's second director and 3D whiz Steven Quale the job of directing the fifth feature in the series which unsurprisingly follows the exact same pattern as it's predecessors. It's the second time we get to see beautiful people killed in episodic fashion in the third dimension, but is that really enough to sustain audiences yet again? 

 Sam Lawton (Nicholas D'Agosto) is heading off with his work force for a team building retreat. As their bus reaches a large suspension bridge, he has a premonition of the group's grizzly fate. Sam panics and forces his friends off the bus to safety. After the horrific accident, 8 members remain alive and have 'cheated death'. The group soon learn that fate is not meant to be changed as 'Death' begins to pick them off one by one in a brutal and chaotic manner.

 Before entering a 'Final Destination' feature, everybody knows what to expect: silly deaths, cheesy acting and a bit of fun. These pictures are not Oscar contenders, nor are they sophisticated or intellectual in any way; they are merely Friday night popcorn flicks, and by all intensive purposes, that's fine.

Still from 'Final Destination 5' (dir: Steven Quale, 2011)
'The Final-er Destination' sticks to it's tried-and-tested formula throughout leaving narrative and character completely secondary - at points it tries to work in a uninteresting plot point about cheating death again by killing another to take 'your place' which does not really work and fails to give the film the story boost it so badly needed. It also suffers once again by it's miserable casting choices - I remember when I watched the first in the franchise and being so impressed by it's performances as well as it's originality; those thoughts seem so long ago. Some of the actors in this film are beyond terrible, particularly Miles Fisher who is not only supremely untalented and immensly irritating, he is also incredible distracting because he is a dead ringer for Tom Cruise. He even played Mr. Cruise in 'Superhero Movie' (2008); oh the irony. He also looks slightly like Christian Bale too which makes it all the more strange. The only young performer in this film who is not too bad is Jacqueline MacInnes Wood (remember the bit with the eyeball in the trailer? That's her).

 But apart from being bad in those departments, 'Final Destination 5' is certainly entertaining. It's gory mayhem is pretty much relentless and it glows on the screen like a Circus of Horrors. It also features some of the best 3D since it's return to the theatres and really makes the disgustingly high admission fee worth it - countless body parts, sharp things and gloop is thrown out of the screen making it an absolute riot. Even the titles insist on sticking flaming blades, kettles and other dangerous objects out of the screen and hypothetically at the viewers. 

 The deaths are the sole reason people visit these films and the fifth picture delivers the gruesome goods - the opening bridge sequence (which is fantastic and beautifully constructed by strong CGI) features numerous innocent civilians falling manically to their certain demise; even somebody falling off the bridge into the water below isn't enough so they have to smash their face off on a cement slab before reaching the sea - pity.

 Even though there is a lot of bad here, this is the strongest 'Final Destination' film since the second and it will bring a demented smile to your face as you watch bucket loads of Z-Listers smash, crash and burn in 3D. I would certainly go and watch it again.

 Tip for the future though - never give Miles Fisher another role again, it's just too painful to endure.

You will laugh at the acting, howl at the gore and forget about the story. Still, it's better than the last 5 'Saw' movies.

By Chris Haydon

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

'The Inbetweeners Movie' Review

'The Inbetweeners Movie' (dir: Ben Palmer, 2011) Cert: 15

TV movies are quite often a double-edged sword; it's often hard to know what you may get. It's easy enough to assume the film's nature because it will be based upon the previous source material but there is always that lingering question of whether a big-screen update of a small-screen show is merely a "cash-in" or not. After it's riotous opening day success, the silver screens across the UK are continuing to be flooded by fans wanting to see their favourite E4 misfits last outing, and no, I'm not talking about the gobby kids with superpowers, I'm talking about the gobby and socially awkward foursome, 'The Inbetweeners'. I've been a huge fan of the show since it first aired, so like so many others, I've eagerly awaited this film...

 After finally finishing sixth form at Rudge Park Comprehensive, Will (Simon Bird), Simon (Joe Thomas), Jay (James Buckley) and Neil (Blake Harrison) are starting their lives as adults. After Carli (Emily Head) cruelly dumps Simon because of university commitments, the boys decide the best remedy for a broken heart is to get anyway from all the normality and go on a 'lads holiday' - of course each member of the group has a different opinion on what the nature of the holiday means. For Will it is supposed to be a cultural experience, but realistically the boys choose Malia in Crete for one reason; carnage. Two weeks of booze, sun, sex and scandal is the plan, but as we all know, nothing is ever that simple with these four.

 It's easy to compare this movie to 'Kevin and Perry Go Large' (2000 - which I love by the way, don't judge); it's British, it's set abroad, and it's fundamentals are set in sex and 'laddish' culture, but the critical difference between these two TV flicks is that audiences love 'The Inbetweeners' because it's brutally honest and frankly heart-warming in a strange and absurdly crude way. Over the three series' of the show, we as viewers have spent quality time with the four boys and have learnt to connect with them on an emotional level as well as a comedic; we care for them as well as enjoy laughing at how bad they are at pretty much anything. Rather than making their big-screen outing a cheap and easy way to make millions, fans of the show are welcomed to the 'labour of love' the show completely deserves - the film feels right and necessary and consequently, it's an absolute hoot.

Still from 'The Inbetweeners Movie' (dir: Ben Palmer, 2011)
 Admittedly, there is not much of a narrative and the film is extremely formulaic (school ends, boys holiday), that's about it structure-wise so to say the film was just a big episode on a bigger screen would not be far from the truth, but fans are not entering the theatre for a gripping narrative, we are coming to have our sides spilt and leave with them in tatters. When a whole cinema is laughing, the mood is utterly infectious and each member cannot help but feel breathless from the monumental amounts of giggles that circles the air - not since 'Superbad' (2007) have I been in a film with that many people enjoying themselves; it's a great feeling and makes the film feel much more like an experience.

 There are numerous scenes that left my side aching from laughter - spoilers will not be found here for those who haven't seen the picture yet, but you are in for a treat. What is also surprising however is how touching the film is; many points are joyous and celebratory but others are also rather sad and sympathetic, particularly some scenes with the girls Jay and Simon meet whilst away. But fear not, the only tears you may shed are due to laughter.

 Concerns with the film's classification lead to certain scepticism between critics and fans - the show has always been classified 18 by the BBFC yet the feature is a 15 but this hasn't stopped writing powerhouse of Iain Morris and Damon Beesley pushing the certificate to it's absolute limit. The film is filled with foul language (including two rather obviously forced uses of the 'C' word), gross-out humour, full frontal nudity and vomit so if you are easily offended, this probably isn't the film for you. If you watch the show, you know the humour so there really isn't anything here that's a great shock to the system.

 As we know from the show, all of the group are great comedic actors and have strong deliveries and these skills are revised and portrayed wonderfully here. Bird is one of the best new comedians working today and I cannot wait for his and Thomas' new show 'Chickens'. Thomas and Buckley are fantastic as ever and as previously mentioned, handle the emotional sequences with great professionalism. Harrison is wonderful too and starts what is quite possibly the best comedy scene of 2011; the dance. As we've seen from the show, Neil's dancing is amazing, but in the film, he, Will and Simon all hit the dance floor and probably have created a move you will most likely see replicated in nightclubs from now on. Will's waddling moves left me gasping - utter brilliance. As well as the boys, the predominant females involved are all strong too with Laura Haddock who plays Alison and Tamla Kari (Lucy) being the stand-outs. Plus it features lovely cameos including Anthony Steward Head as Will's father.

 Comedy has been weak in 2011 but 'The Inbetweeners Movie' could be the redemption - with laugh-a-minute gags, a cracking soundtrack and wholesome and loveable characters, this is the film to beat. We Brits get humour and this film absolutely cements this fact. Considering how well it is performing here in the UK, it's only a matter of time before Film 4 flings it state-side and I hope it competes there too. It deserves success and recognition, and hopefully will be a way of showing Americans that Adam Sandler movies are not funny; this is 'proper' comedy at it's simplest and down right best.

Jaw-achingly hilarious, immensely charming and strangely life-affirming; this is the send-off our favourite lads deserved.

By Chris Haydon

Thursday, 18 August 2011

'Cowboys & Aliens' Review

'Cowboys & Aliens' (dir: Jon Favreau, 2011) Cert: 12A

Some things pair together beautifully; Tea and Biscuits, Bangers and Mash, Tom and Jerry, whilst some other things sound slightly disjointed - 'Cowboys & Aliens', the latest film from 'Iron Man' (2008) director Jon Favreau falls into that category. After seeing multiple trailers throughout the year, I couldn't understand why Paramount/DreamWorks were selling this as a 'serious' picture; surely a picture with this title must be slightly tongue-in-cheek or a B Movie right? 

 After waking up in the middle of nowhere with no recollection of himself or his past and a strange device attached to his arm, Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) rides into town. The year is 1873 and the place is Arizona. The town do not take kindly to this sudden stranger and soon enough Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) is called in to sort things out. Suddenly, the town is attacked by extra-terrestrial 'demons' that destroy buildings and abduct locals. Now Lonergan and Dolarhyde must set aside their differences and saddle up with fellow members of the town including the mysterious and inquisitive Ella (Olivia Wilde) to find these invaders and stop them once and for all.

 Firstly to answer my opening question, the reason why the trailers made the film look serious is because it is. The idea that Cowboys fighting off Aliens is comedic or satirical is completely false; Favreau's feature expects viewers to believe and become immersed in this world rather than sit there laughing at it. My reaction to this prior to watching was turned off and slightly negative, but upon watching the feature, one has had a huge change of heart. Despite being completely far-fetched and ludicrous, 'Cowboys & Aliens' is a mighty fun and mighty fine summer blockbuster.

 Fundamentally the film is a Western with a mix of Sci-Fi rather than being a hybrid genre of the two. The setting is the Old West, it's lead characters are the Cowboys and the Aliens are the villains. Like many Western films, some stereotypes are used such as the moody lit saloon and the crooked law enforcement, but as a whole, 'Cowboys & Aliens' is far from stereotypical and excels through it's great ambition and excellent execution.

 Favreau clearly cared about this picture and it shows - from the insignificant details to the monumental action, this has his signature all over it. What is unfamiliar for the filmmaker however is how tough the film is. It opens with a scene of violence and this film travels right through it's duration. Bottle smashing, face bashing and throat ripping are all ingredients to this mix and at some points I did think the 12A certificate might have been a mistake. The violence in the film is at the top level to grant a 12A; it's not really violent enough for a 15 but some young viewers might be a little shocked at some of it's brutality.

Still from 'Cowboys & Aliens' (dir: Jon Favreau, 2011)
 Having said that, the film isn't just a parade of dead bodies and CGI, it has characters that are far more constructed than you may be led to believe. Each of the main characters has a point, a history and a significant impact to the narrative progression. This is not a film like say 'Limitless' where they stuck Robert De Niro in just to boost sales. Craig, Ford, Wilde and Sam Rockwell et al are all relevant and essential to telling this tale. As well as a decent set of characters, the film has rich themes which certainly surprised - a big focus point is that of the Cowboys and the Red Indians. Thoughts of racism and power are shed upon and merge beautifully into the rather bizarre mix giving this blockbuster a big lump of substance as well as visual style.

 The CGI is incredibly strong and entertaining throughout and it's especially nice that it's few and far between. The majority of big action sequences consist mainly of pyrotechnics rather than gallons of computerised pixels but when the technology comes into play, it's used cleverly and productively. As well as this visual flair, the film's strongest imagery comes with it's glorious cinematography which isn't far off Roger Deakins' superior work on 'True Grit' earlier this year. The Western setting looks fantastic; the vast open spaces, the dust-bowl town and the twisted and lifeless foliage that surrounds is quite simply exquisite. 

 The performances are all great with Craig and Ford being spectacular. Lonergan is a gritty, vicious and unsettled man who smokes, smacks people up and gets the job done. He is an interesting protagonist and it's refreshing to see a leading man who is not straight or essentially 'good'. Craig fizzles with sheer brutality but reserved charm and was the perfect casting choice. Ford too is tough as nails and to an extent, Dolarhyde is one of the story's villains. His gruff speech, medieval attitudes towards society and lack of tolerance is greatly portrayed on-screen. It's also amazing just how much energy the man still has, even at 69. Wilde's character of Ella is intriguing, established and sexy. She looks utterly stunning but her looks do not warrant her place, she is a great actress and is certainly getting the right roles. 

 Granted 'Cowboys & Aliens' is not perfect but a film this ambitious and refreshing is certainly worthy of praise and your time; It's exciting, absorbing and massively entertaining, plus it's deeply surprising. This is not a good old fashioned B Movie like 'Godzilla vs. King Kong' (1962), this is a bloody, gritty and muscular feature that's absolute barrels of fun.

It isn't just Rooster Cogburn who has 'True Grit', Craig and co have it too. A brilliant summer escapist epic.

By Chris Haydon

Monday, 15 August 2011

'Super 8' Review

'Super 8' (dir: J. J. Abrams, 2011) Cert: 12A

As summer marches on and the remakes, reboots and adaptations continue fill our silver screens, we are treated to the occasional little gem, and this year's big-budget but kind hearted feature comes in the form of J.J. Abrams' 'Super 8'. It's taken me far too long to see this movie but alas, here are my thoughts.

 Set in the small fictitious town of Lillian, Ohio in 1979, 'Super 8' follows Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) and his group of friends who are making a zombie film on a Super 8 camera. After managing to convince a girl called Alice (Elle Fanning) to get involved with the project, the group set off to continue movie-making. During a shoot, a devastating train crash occurs leaving mountains of burning rubble and debris. Suddenly something unexplainable bursts from the fiery ruins and sets it's heart on causing havoc to the town. The group decide to pursue this strange mystery villain and aim to save Lillian from this threat. 

 'Undervalued' is a terminology that I believe perfectly sums up Abrams' latest - it seems as though because Steven Spielberg's name is attached to the project as producer, everything else is an irrelevance. Many have compared this picture to Spielberg's earlier work including 'E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial' (1982) and 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' (1977) and other 80s escapist pictures such as 'The Goonies' (1985) - now although these are stereotypically 'good' films and ones which many cherish, I think it's slightly unfair in regards to the ways in which these films are being compared. Various critics have basically accused 'Super 8' of being a carbon-copy of Spielberg's films, and more of a 'suck-up' rather than a homage.

 Personally, one does not agree. Granted there are similarities between this picture and some of the above, but consistently comparing does not do 'Super 8' it's justice; the film needs to be judged properly as a stand-alone work, rather than playing cinematic Top Trumps with it. 

 If I really had to compare it to any feature, it would be Rob Reiner's masterpiece 'Stand By Me' (1986) - although the film lacks any Sci-Fi element, it's fundamental narrative is about friendship, about life and learning through experience; the group of boys set out to find a body and consequently find themselves along the way. It's the same story with 'Super 8'; the film is driven by it's characters and their development as a group and as individuals, all the space-age stuff is completely secondary. I genuinely believe that if Spielberg's name wasn't attached to this project, the majority of people would not be making any fuss at all.

 Right, I'll actually critique the film now, and heads up - it's totally brilliant.

 As previously mentioned, the film's life lives with it's characters. We follow the group of children throughout and find comfort in their presence. As with many films where children lead, the group is slightly type-cast (The fat one, the geeky one, the brave one, the mad one and so on), but the type-casting and formatting ends there because thankfully Abrams knows the importance of character and development. Each member of the group is rounded, dimensional and interesting, as well as being frequently funny and effortlessly charming. Unlike some movie kids, these children are not brats, nor are they 'goody-two-shoes', they are your usual bunch of 12-13 year olds who witness something extraordinary. Abrams' fantastic script gives the group believable and naturalistic dialogue too, so yes the kids do swear, quite a bit actually but that's how youngsters talk. Kids these days...

Still from 'Super 8' (dir: J.J. Abrams, 2011)
 'Super 8' has been dubbed a family film too by some, again probably because it has PRODUCED BY STEVEN SPIELBERG slapped on the poster. I'd slightly argue against this - there are certain themes and messages here that are clearly aimed for the family audience; imagination, wonder, exploration and so forth, but there is also a lot of 'adult' material, and I don't just mean the language. A key narrative theme throughout is loss; the film opens with the funeral of Joe's mother and ideas of loss and misplacement are heavily implied during - even everyone's dogs run away. The film is also 'quite' scary and violent in places; there's no gore and just a very tiny amount of blood but the first hour is weighted in tension and suspense, something that may either terrify or bore smaller viewers. I would not see any particular harm in letting an under 12 watch it, just maybe not if they are under 8 or 9.

 As well as a brilliant group of characters and a cracking script, the film also sports some wonderful cinematography and breath-taking special effects. The train crash is utterly incredible and one of 2011's best CGI sequences - the epic pyrotechnics, flying carriages and deafening sounds make it a stand-out scene in this grand work. What's even better about the CGI is that there's very little of it; after the train, there isn't much more catastrophic action until the picture's climax, but filling that void is easy due to just how good the young actors are. The picture's duration simply flies by.    

 Every performance is strong with Fanning and Riley Griffiths who plays Charles Kaznyk (the fat one) being the show-stoppers. Elle Fanning is such a brilliant young actress, much like her older sister Dakota, but thankfully she has moved out of her shadow and dominates here. She may not have as much screen-time in the third act, but she is certainly the performing highlight of the picture. Griffiths consistently provides the comedy and has great timing for someone of only 14 - his facial expressions added to his comic delivery make him irrevocably entertaining. Courtney is great as Joe and does very well with carrying the emotional sequences as well as the escapism elements. An opening scene of him sat on a swing-set is lovingly delicate and heart-rendering; it's a superb bit of psychical acting. The other kids are great too, particularly from Ryan Lee who plays Cary - the kid's a pyromaniac, what's not to love?

 Coming back on the discussion earlier, 'Super 8' is certainly a homage rather than a 'suck-up'; it's a homage to simpler times, better cinema and the sense of awe and magic that swept through youth. If any film is going to embrace and bear-hug your inner child for 112 minutes, it's this. Abrams has crafted some unforgettable characters, a gripping and often tense environment and has breathed life back into retro science-fiction. By all intensive purposes, 2011's summer has been pretty strong and this is yet another brilliant addition to the pile - it's quite simply sheer entertainment.

A film with a mighty big heart, and every inch in the right place. A modern classic in the making and amongst the year's best.

By Chris Haydon

Saturday, 13 August 2011

'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' Review

'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' (dir: Rupert Wyatt, 2011) Cert: 12A

10 years after the horror that was Tim Burton's remake of 'Planet of the Apes', the world is welcomed to an all-new reboot/prequel set in present day that leads to the unforgettable events in the original features. After seeing the trailer about 6-7 months ago, the only thought that crossed one's mind was "That looks terrible...Apes jumping at helicopters and causing havoc? Please." But despite my initial emotions towards the feature, I took my seat and hoped it would surpass my extremely low expectations...

 Will Rodman (James Franco) is a genetic scientist working on the development of a serum that could become the cure for Alzheimer's Disease. His company begin to test the new drug on chimpanzees to document the effects on brain power and stimulation. After a freak accident, Will is left to care for Caesar (Andy Serkis); a baby chimp whose mother was exposed to the drug. As he grows, Caesar gains superior learning abilities and develops human skills such as drawing and reading. When Caesar is sadly taken from Will's care, he uses his intelligence to build a chimp and ape army to fight against the humans who have made their lives a misery.

 'ROTPOTA' is yet another film to suffer from it's obviously misleading and mindless trailer. Rather than actually highlighting some narrative focus, the trailer just shows a bunch of miscellaneous images of chimps being 'bad' - it completely devalues the picture, it's messages and it's genre. Those measly two minutes are what originally put me right off seeing this picture, but I am so glad I wiped that from my memory and took the gamble because this film is quite simply extraordinary. 

 Rather than being dumb box-office fodder, this Ape origin story is primarily grounded by it's beautiful and sometimes uncomfortable depiction of ethics. This is not a massive pyrotechnic laden Action flick, this is a picture about Nature vs. Nurture, Genetic Science vs. Animal Cruelty and most importantly, Man playing God with innocent lives. The story is so rich in it's social and political context it's very easy to forget you are watching a bunch of CGI chimps running about. 

 At it's heart lies a B-Movie; it has big animals causing mayhem, a scientist who's maybe a little forceful but not wacky and an incredible cheesy and long-winded title, but once the layers have been built up and the film is fully established, it becomes an A-Movie and is easily the surprise film of the summer and the most emotive and engaging blockbuster of the year. What's so great about it is how the audience react - we as viewers side with the chimps rather than out fellow man. The idea of curing Alzheimer's is wonderful and something that would change this planet, but in the film when we see the treatment of the primates and the facilities they are forced in to, the cure becomes an irrelevance and we long for the ape's freedom and power.

 Besides the story being fantastic, there is also the CGI which is quite simply astonishing. Some of the primates look almost too uncanny - in a few scenes I expected a cameo from David Attenborough. Here's an image comparison to prove just how good the effects are:

CGI is at it's best when it's forgotten; one doesn't want to be reminded that they watching a digital image rather than a 'real' character and this is where 'ROTPOTA' excels. The wonderful Andy Serkis jumps back into the Motion-Capture suit for his performance as Caesar and in the process, completely makes the movie. Caesar is a fantastic character that's dimensional, knowing and focused. He's so much more than a Chimpanzee and so much more that a series of pixels; he's basically human. Caesar's facial expressions and body movements are so realistic and précised that it makes the revolutionary chimp one of the year's best characters, perhaps the best. I really hope this performance is remembered next year because the primate deserves an Oscar.

Still from 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' (dir: Rupert Wyatt, 2011)

 Wyatt's direction is certainly strong and he is able to handle the dramatic weight of the story, as well as the budget. Considering he's a fairly new filmmaker and has only directed one other feature film ('The Escapist' [2008]), he proves his status here by using smart camera angles and confidence in his execution. The script also contains lots of references to the original films so fans of the franchise will get frequent treats throughout it's duration.

 Alongside our biological descendants in this story are the humans and they also add a lot to the mixture. Franco gives a well-rounded and honest performance, and although he's actually in the supporting role (Serkis is the star), he provides the goods and makes Will an immensely likeable and believable character. Freida Pinto plays Will's girlfriend Caroline and she does well with what she is given, but she is far from the main focus of the film and gets slightly sidetracked. Tom "Draco Malfoy" Felton plays another horrible character as Dodge Landon; a supposed 'carer' for the apes at the rescue sanctuary. He's a cruel and vicious person who enjoys tormenting and harming the animals. It seems he is trying to shake off his 'Potter' past and this is a decent move for him - just maybe he should play a nice guy next time? However the star alongside Caesar is Will's long-suffering father Charles played by John Lithgow. This is one of his best performances for a long time and really captures the essence of living with somebody who has Alzheimer's - it's a brave, bold and grounded performance.

 Apart from Pinto's slight lacking in narrative scope, I can't really find a bad thing to say about this feature. I approached the film with caution due to being massively misguided by it's promotion and left the film having been thought-provoked, emotionally engaged and above all else, greatly entertained. 'ROTPOTA' is a raw and powerful drama that meddles with a risqué subject with dignity and understanding - it's quite possibly the best prequel I've ever seen and is worthy to be considered alongside the marvellous Charlton Heston original. 

Apes have certainly risen thanks to a superb narrative and Serkis' mesmerising performance. Hail Caesar!

By Chris Haydon

Sunday, 7 August 2011

'The Smurfs' Review

'The Smurfs' (dir: Raja Gosnell, 2011)

I'm pretty sure I know what you're thinking right now..."Where's the review for 'Super 8' or 'Captain America: The First Avenger'!?" Well I promise they are coming. However whilst we wait, I present to you the review for the live-action and animated big-screen adaptation, 'The Smurfs' which is theatrically released in 3D on Wednesday - here's what I thought of it...

 When the evil Wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria) chases the Smurfs from their beloved village, a number of them are accidently transported through a magical wormhole which thrusts them into the bright lights of New York City. When Clumsy Smurf (voiced by Anton Yelchin) ends up inside a delivery box, the fellow Smurfs dash to his rescue but to their surprise end up inside a city apartment accompanied by a married couple; Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and Grace (Jayma Mays) Winslow. At first reluctant to have the Smurfs around, the couple soon learn to care for them and strive to protect them from Gargamel who has also made his way to the Big Apple.

 Fundamentally, 'The Smurfs' is your average Children's holiday feature - it's bright, established and easy-going, and I'm certain virtually every child and infant will have a blast watching it, but unfortunately, it also suffers from those typical errors that swamp movies for youngsters.

 Firstly there's the script which is beyond terrible; it's mind-numbingly stupid and littered with repetition which quickly becomes irritating and feels genuinely lazy - it feels like no care or effort has gone into the writing process. In the trailer, Patrick jokes when asking why do the Smurfs always say the word 'Smurf' in replace of a fellow word; well I too was asking myself this question. The word is uttered in so many lines and in so many scenarios that after 30 minutes, I started to think 'Smurf' was there as a replacement for the 'F' word. These are some quotes from the movie:
  • "You Smurfed with the wrong girl!"
  • "Where the Smurf are we?!"
  • "Smurf that!"
  • "Oh my Smurf!"
 Even the film's taglines include 'Where the Smurf are we?' and 'Smurf Happens'.

 I found this deeply troubling throughout because I couldn't grasp why they would want to insinuate bad language. It spends so much time repressing adult viewers and telling us that this film is for children, yet it may as well have the dialogue from 'Scarface' for a good hour. If it was there to 'appeal' to me and make me laugh, it certainly didn't succeed.

Still from 'The Smurfs' (dir: Raja Gosnell, 2011)
 The second big error is the animation - now considering this film is predominately live-action, you would think the lovable little blue folk would look amazing, but actually they are pretty mediocre. The brief opening sequence in the Smurf Village does look impressive but the moment we just follow Papa, Smurfette, and Clumsy et al, the animated cracks begin to show and we are left with something just about average. This is not director Raja Gosnell's first dabble at live-action/animation either, he also directed the train-wreck that was 'Scooby-Doo' (2002 - which again suffered from the same animated problems).

 The film's final error is it's voice-casting; it's a pretty poor affair. Pop singer Katy Perry provides the 'goods' for Smurfette which I found rather odd - with something as timeless as The Smurfs, I would have expected some more established voicing, but no, we get Katy Perry and she even goes as far as saying "I kissed a Smurf and I liked it!" - I shuddered in my seat upon hearing this and thought "I wonder how much she was paid for that line?" Some of the other characters have odd casting too including Alan Cumming who actually sounds like he is trying to 'be' Scottish even though he actually is Scottish. Still, at least the brilliant Jonathan Winters voices Papa Smurf...

 'The Smurfs' does have a couple of good points however; Patrick Harris and Mays make a charming on-screen couple and are incredibly endearing, a scene where the group find a copy of the old Smurfs comics is rather sweet and Zaria is good as Gargamel, however he is upstaged by his shoddy-animated but often funny cat Azrael who is easily the best thing about the movie. It's strange to think however that the majority of good things about this film do not include the main characters or focus point of the feature.

 I'm sure this will be a huge hit with the kids over the summer period, but for the parents hoping for a warm nostalgia trip, you will sadly be disappointed by this baggy and fairly uninteresting affair.

By Chris Haydon