6.25 out of 10
‘The Smurfs’ is your average family film. The kids will laugh a few times, there are lessons to learn, there are cute moments, but there is also no real substance or heart. The 3D is pretty awful (see below). The acting from the human beings is about what you would expect in this type of film and the voice work from other actors is also what you would expect. In other words, there is nothing about ‘The Smurfs’ that is impressive or would surpass your expectations. At the same time, there are worse family films out there (*ahem, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, ahem*). It is what it is.
Any spoilers will be clearly marked so you can avoid reading them if you so choose.
The Smurfs opens in Baltimore on July 29, 2011.
Patrick Winslow, Neil Patrick Harris, warns his wife to not be fooled by the smurfs’ cuteness. Well, sorry NPH, they are cute, really cute. And kids love cute things. The kids at my screening loved the smurfs and laughed at pretty much all of the physical comedy and at least some of the jokes. Once again, a large portion of the dialogue jokes were meant for the adults.
The acting is not stellar, but the actors all do well with the superficial script, which is not necessarily a bad thing in a kids’ movie. Hank Azaria would have to get the nod for his performance as Gargamel, the evil wizard. He has a lot of range and did well with the goofy character that provided a lot of the humor with the conversations with his cat.
The Smurfs is paced well and is a good length at about 90 minutes. The movie managed to keep the attentions of the kids at my screening. There are several lessons to learn, the main one being how important family and friends are above other things. Then there are also lessons about accepting people for who they are, facing things you are afraid of and standing up for what you believe in. It is unclear as to how much of these points the kids take away from the film. Other family movies have clearer messages told in better ways.
‘Smurf’ may turn into a word that you have to forbid your kids from using. In the film the word can be substituted for pretty much any other word, or even parts of words. As such, there are several times when the word was used to replace a curse word, or at least could have obviously been a curse word. It would not surprise me if kids start replacing all the regular curse words with ‘smurf’ after seeing the movie, but I guess that’s better than using the real words.
Once again we have a family film with very little heart or passion and absolutely nothing impressive, unique or memorable. It is true that this is the only genre where that is ok since the audience does not expect more than to laugh a few times and appreciate the cute creatures. But, this one is certainly no Pixar or Disney film that will be an instant addition to your home collection. As a matter of fact, you would be better off finding some of the old ‘Smurfs’ episodes from back in the 80s and add those to your collection.
The 3D is horrible. I have never been one of those people with a problem watching 3D movies. I can count on one hand the number of times it has bothered me or has given me a headache. Well, The Smurfs is one of those times. First of all, the movie starts with an absolutely dizzying sequence that, when paired with 3D, is downright painful to watch. Then, every time the camera pans quickly the whole screen gets blurry and you get that feeling you have had just a little too much to drink. I’m not sure if there was something wrong with the print used in our theater, but it gave me a headache several times. When the camera was steady the 3D was ok with a few nice ‘pop out’ moments.
The Bottom Line
The Smurfs is a tough call. It is average in almost every way. The story is your basic family film story with acting like you would expect and a few jokes meant for the parents. The kids laughed at the physical humor and really like the smurfs. But, there is nothing memorable at all. Most people will not rush out to buy this one when it hits store shelves and most will probably never feel a desire to watch it a second time. So it is a tough call as to whether or not to spend theater money taking the whole family to see it. My recommendation is to wait for the rental, but if you really need a night out with the family, you could do a lot worse. Parents there are a couple jokes designed for you that should go over the heads of the young ones, but the use of the word ‘smurf’ as a replacement for potential curse words may be an issue for some.