Directed by: Raja Gosnell (Beverly Hills Chihuahua)
Starring: Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria, Jayma Mays, Sofia Vergara
For those who claim that if I don’t like a movie, they know it’s good—has Hollywood ever got a treat lined up here! It’s the latest hairball of a movie hacked up by Raja Gosnell, a director whose reputation for massively tasteless, awful movies is only enhanced by it. Yes, it’s The Smurfs. It’s everything you probably feared and then some. The “then some” comes mostly from the movie’s attempts to cast itself in post-modern terms, desiring to be a movie that cashes in on the old cartoon series, while being snarky about it and positioning itself as better and smarter than the thing it mines. This mostly comes across as being cynically contemptuous of its source material.
Mindful of all that cabbage Alvin and the Chipmunks raked in (for whatever unfortunate reason), The Smurfs opts not to make an actual Smurf movie, but one that transports the annoying little blue creatures—and their now live-action nemesis Gargamel (Hank Azaria hiding behind a fake nose and a bald cap that keeps puckering where it’s glued on)—to modern day New York City and a cast of, you know, actual human actors. As a result, only the very first part of the movie takes place in Smurftopia or whatever it’s called. According to the film, a blue moon opens a portal between a waterfall in the Smurf world and a fountain in Central Park. And where the main Smurfs go, the villainous Gargamel and his mostly CGI cat henchman Azrael (voiced by Frank Welker) follow. Of course, while logic would hint that the remaining Smurfs are pretty much at Gargamel’s mercy with Papa Smurf (voiced by Jonathan Winters) out of the way, the plot demands that the baddies must go as well.
Once the action moves to New York, the Smurfs get themselves mixed up—and involved—with beleagured ad man Patrick Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris) and his pregnant wife Grace (Jayma Mays, TV’s Glee). Patrick is already stressed by a two-day deadline to deliver an ad campaign to “comically” terrifying boss Odile (Sofia Vergara, TV’s Modern Family)—not to mention his innate fear of fatherhood. Now, he’s got Smurfs on his hands—Smurfs who crash his place of business and put his job in jeopardy (see also Mr. Popper’s Penguins and Hop, two live-action/CGI kiddie films from this year with practically identical premises). Grace, on the other hand, bonds with the blue beings. Of course, Patrick will too before it’s all over. He’ll also learn What Really Matters and blah, blah, blah. It’s all remedial kiddie flick 101, which might be fine if you’re 5-years-old and seeing your first movie. (Sadly, that misses me by 51 years and several thousand movies.)
Yes, that awful “La La La” Smurf song is present—something they try to defuse by having characters comment on how annoying it is. (Personally, I think it’s a tie as to whether it or the also-present Vampire Weekend song “Holiday” wins in the annoying category, though the latter wore out its debatable value in nonstop Honda ads some time back.) This kind of commentary is one of the gimmicks meant to make the movie somehow appealing to adults. In that same vein, we have a Brokeback Mountain (2005) reference and—of all things—a Dustin Hoffman impression from Midnight Cowboy (1969). Really? I figure maybe six people who actually watched this got that one—and they were all 50-plus-year-old movie critics.
But honestly, it’s a big-screen Smurf movie. It’s a big-screen Smurf movie made by the guy who gave us Bevery Hills Chihuahua, both Scooby Doo movies and Yours, Mine and Ours. What were the odds that it wasn’t going to be pretty awful? Rated PG for some mild rude humor and action.