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

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