Definitely for the kids.
Boasting an all-star cast including Neil Patrick Harris (“How I Met Your Mother,” Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs), Hank Azaria (“The Simpsons,” Happy Feet 2), Sofia Vergara (“Modern Family,” Chef), and more – see what happens when the Smurfs leave their world of enchantment and invade NYC.
While I know that The Smurfs release was to push Sony Pictures’ Smurfs: The Lost Village, I have to acknowledge that the first Smurfs film actually wasn’t too far off from the ridiculousness of the original 80s cartoon that I adored as a kid. That cartoon was always ‘out there’ in content and never really had a competent three-act structure, but the cartoon entertained. I mean, they produced a dark episode once where Smurfs were biting each other’s tails and turning a dark blue, which indicated they had become evil, so it wasn’t like the cartoon was shooting for the stars in terms of storytelling. Seriously, bit each other’s tails. That’s kind of 50 Shades of Blue.
Having said that, The Smurfs movie captivates kids and will, at best, mildly please parents. Without further delay, let’s dig right into it.
The first act has The Smurfs living a peaceful life (well, mostly) with singing, dancing and large amounts of innocent joy filling the best parts of their days in their secret village in the middle of a mystical forest. One day, one of their own, Clumsy, accidentally leads evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria) and his wicked cat Azrael (Mr. Krinkle) into the village and The Smurfs have to make a quick escape before they become cat food (or Gargamel’s warped experiments). Ultimately, their magical escape leads them to the great city of New York, where they run into soon-to-be parents Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and Grace Winslow (Jayma Mays), who don’t know what to make of their new blue guests. The end of the first act has the Smurfs and the Winslow’s trying to figure each other out, while also trying to figure out how to get the Smurfs home before they’re stuck in New York City forever.
The first act is fine. There isn’t much rhyme or reason to most of what is presented, including how they ended up in New York City of all places. Regardless of content, it works within the context of the story and is very much geared towards the younger audience it was built for, which isn’t a bad thing. In addition to the story, the jokes are a bit out there and juvenile, including Azaria’s Gargamel’s need to ask Azrael, “Azrael? Are you dead?” every time the poor cat disappears off screen in some dangerous way, but at the same time the jokes are kind of funny and well-placed. The first act is filled full of setup, funny characters and a potential roadblock for all parties involved, including the Winslow family, which are caught between putting up with their new blue friends and Patrick progressing his career in marketing for a make-up mogul named Odile Angelou (Sofia Vergara).
The second act starts with a solution being presented to The Smurfs on how to get home. The Smurfs spend a good portion of the act trying to prepare themselves to go home, while at the same time avoid Gargamel, whom has developed a devious and magical way to trap them. On the side, the poor Smurfs are inadvertently ruining Patrick’s career with Angelou, by accidentally screwing up a marketing campaign that Patrick is trying to develop. By the end of the second act, Patrick has shunned the Smurfs, the Smurfs have a portion of their group trapped by Gargamel and Grace is angry at Patrick for essentially kicking out their blue friends. In short, there are a lot of loose ends to tie up in the third act.
The second act is a bit of a mess that is built on funny and emotional situations that don’t take each other too serious. Do the pieces fit together? They do, but what they create is a very unbalanced story that doesn’t necessarily make sense, as much as it makes kids laugh. Is that a good exchange? As a critic, I want more from the story and better writing to accept this movie as something ‘good’, but as a parent my kids watched this film with intensity and didn’t worry about its construction or its severe lack of good dialogue or compelling characters. I can dig that my kids loved this movie and that they were on the edge of their little seats with the second act. Sony Pictures is engaging their audience perfectly with such reactions.
As the third act rolls around, the movie somehow pulls through with its ridiculousness and peaks with a brutal fight between the Smurfs and Gargamel (okay, not brutal, more like wacky fun). The ending of the film is predictable, as all ‘good’ parties end on a high note, including the Winslow family. Of course, Gargamel’s ‘demise’ keeps the door open for more Smurf films, though I’m not going to say how. Anyway, the third act does what it needs to in order to properly assure kids that The Smurfs are going to be okay. I won’t say how, but I will say that kids will adore the ending.
Overall, I know The Smurfs, from an objective view, is not that great. It has some major story issues, some questionable twists and turns that don’t necessarily get resolved properly and focuses more on making kids laugh than creating a memorable ‘Disney-esque’ movie experience. I know this and I admit this. Having said that, my kids enjoyed it. They thought it was funny and some of the lines, especially from Gargamel, were lasting to them. So, while I will not like this film much as a critic, I will appreciate it because my kids enjoyed it.
4K HDR is Smurfy
While I understand the marketing ploy behind re-releasing The Smurfs from 2011, it’s still baffling why Sony would choose to release a 4K HDR version of the film. That’s quite a bit of money put into a film that was slightly successful. Anyway, I’m not going to sit here and try to figure out the logic beyond the obvious, but I will say that the 4K upgrade and HDR treatment actually look solid. The fact that this movie is a colorful film filled with 30-50% animation as the main focus probably helped the 4K upgrade a bit. The colors are gorgeous, detailed and without much graininess left over. Is it perfect? No, but it’s impressive nonetheless. The colors and picture are detailed and rich. Sony Pictures did a helluva job with it.
On the special features side of things, here’s what you’re looking at (the main features):
• The Smurfs: Comic Book to the Big Screen
• 2 Commentary Tracks
• Deleted & Extended Scenes
• Going Gargamel
Good stuff for a decent movie.