DIRECTED BY: Raja Gosnell
WRITTEN BY: J. David Stem, David N. Weiss, Jay Scherick, David Ronn
STARRING: Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris, Katy Perry, Jayma Mays, Jonathan Winters
RATING: 2.5 stars
I loved the William Hanna and Jospeh Barbara animated series of the Smurfs so much as a child that years later as an adult I bought a Smurfette T-shirt I wear proudly - even in public. I was far more excited than the children around me at the cinema, who are far too young to even know what the Smurfs are, but I could definitely see parents with a twinkle in their eyes as the 3D film began. The first five minutes of the film are fun and when the famous Smurfs song is sung you are suddenly transported back to your childhood. Unfortunately, after that, the film rides a roller-coaster of good and disappointing scenes before reaching its climax. While the film isn't “bad” overall, it wasn't quite as fulfilling as I had hoped it would be.
For those unfamiliar with the concept of the Smurfs (and if you're over the age of 20 I'm terribly disappointed in you) the comic strip was created by Belgian Pierre Culliford, also known as Peyo. I'm not sure how he would have felt about the film, but at least there are a few nods to him throughout the film.
We first meet the Smurfs in their secret village where they are preparing to celebrate the Harvest of the Blue Moon when Clumsy (Anton Yelchin) inadvertently leads the evil Gargamel (Hank Azaria) into the secret village. To escape him, Clumsy and several other Smurfs, including Grumpy (George Lopez), Gutsy (Alan Cumming), Brainy (Fred Armisen), Smurfette (Katy Perry) and Papa Smurf (Jonathan Winters) escape through a portal to New York. There they meet advertising gun Patrick Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris) and his wife Grace (Jayma Mays) who are expecting their first child. The Smurfs and the Winslows team up to help each other overcome their obstacles.
There are some good jokes along the way, like arguably the most popular question everyone asks about why Smurfette is the only female among 100 Smurfs in the village. There are actually a lot of sexual jokes in the film for something that is supposed to be children's entertainment. With lines like “Where the Smurf are we?” and “You smurfed with the wrong girl” the film actually treads a thin line, but it's innocent enough that children won't understand the underlying meaning. In fact, it seems the film uses the term “smurf” as a suitable adjective for just about anything.
What makes the film a success is the performances. Hank Azaria is as close to a comedic genius as one could get so there's no surprise he is excellent as Gargamel. Neil Patrick Harris is very likeable and Jayma Mays is just as sweet in this film as she is in Glee. The actors playing the Smurfs are also very good, particularly Winters who played Papa Smurf in the cartoon. So, while I was only half-convinced that The Smurfs is a worthwhile film to see for adults and fans of the comic or cartoon, I can definitely recommend it for children who seemed to never stop laughing during the preview screening.