Thank you Hank Azaria for continuing to bring your A-game even if everything else around you is a Smurfing mess. His portrayal of the sinister wizard Gargamel is the life-force that will keep the adults involved. The only other aspect to keep the generation that grew up with The Smurfs attentive is to count how many subtle sexual innuendos are coming out of Smurfette’s mouth (voiced by Katy Perry); something the movie enjoys addressing every so often (or I was just that bored creating things to entertain myself).
Other than that, this adaptation is as fundamental as they come. And the usually dynamite Neil Patrick Harris found something he can’t do: find the proper tone in a kid’s movie. Talk about a guy who lost in a sea of CGI blue guys.
With all that being said, the 86 minutes is strictly geared toward the kiddies. Which the filmmakers make fairly obvious since they blatantly chose to ostracize audiences who grew up with the personified blue characters, save for the 10 minute opening devoted to realm the cartoon depicted. Sure Gargamel is spot-on and the CGI animation is loyal to the physical make-up of the Smurfs. Even having the blue terds playing in a real-world environment (i.e Yogi Bear, Alvin & the Chipmunks, Hop) is a tolerable choice. Question is why?
Why the Smurf (every critic will beat this joke to death) tinker with something that doesn’t require it? After watching only six Smurfs (Papa Smurf, Smurfette, Brainy, Grouchy, Clumsy, Gutsy) run around New York City, I’d much rather see this take place in the realm of mushroom homes and Gargamel’s evil cottage.
Now having Gargamel run around in his patent dark smock and red stockings can be amusing. His interaction with typical NYC people ranging from heartless top level execs (Sofia Vergara, Tim Gunn) to a homeless guy pushing a cart (Victor Pagan) – who Gargamel believes is a fellow wizard based on his attire – works to a certain extent, but could have been developed more. Azaria’s inspired work ends up being hampered by a clichéd and scatterbrained script. Same can be said for the situations the Smurfs are thrust into: Riding pigeons, surfing on taxi cabs, being mistaken for advanced toys at a store, along with emulating Aerosmith & Run D.M.C’s “Walk This Way” video while NPH plays guitar hero (bittersweet for me) will have the little ones watching with interest, while the rest of us see our childhood smacked around as much as Gargamel’s cat Azrael (Mr. Krinkle). Seriously, that fur ball takes a pounding and it’s disturbingly amusing.
If you want the storyline – or just reference every other animation that fuses humans and CGI – the Smurfs are preparing for their Blue Moon Festival (serving the beer with the same name would have helped get me through). Papa Smurf (voiced by Jonathan Winters) has a vision that something terrible could happen this year involving Clumsy (voiced by Anton Yelich). Sure enough, Gargamel breaches the Smurfs hidden village and sends hundreds of the little guys into a frenzy (this is also the only chance for nostalgia as a few other Smurfs have brief cameos). As most of the village gets retreat, the six mentioned above come across a portal, or vortex, as Brainy (voiced by Fred Armisen) points out while correcting Grouchy (voiced by George Lopez) and the Scottish Gutsy (voiced by Alan Cumming), as they’re running away from old Garg’s and his wise-cracking meowing sidekick.
Well the vortex sucks them all in and they end up right in Central Park. Gargamel is still on the prowl and forces the group to hide in a box belonging to Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris). He unknowing brings them all home and eventually they are discovered by his pregnant wife Grace (Jayma Mays – who looks a lot like Anna Faris by the way). Once they realize that the blue guys are harmless, yet rambunctiously curious, Papa Smurf and the gang try to figure out a way to find the vortex back to their realm. Of course, the resourceful Gargamel begins conjuring up more magic in trying to capture his arch-nemesis in NYC.
Overall, The Smurfs in 3D is a mindless cash-grab. By having them sing their theme song (La-La-lalalala), and properly depicting their physical characteristics, led to the filmmakers resting on their laurels in doing a bang-up job with this adaptation. Kids will dig this – if they can keep up with sporadic dialogue – but the rest of us will think this is a Smurfing piece of Smurf (one-more time for good measure).
The Smurfs is rated PG and is currently playing in the Tampa Bay market.