U – 103mins – Animation/Comedy/Family – 10th August 2011

Despite me trying to be as neutral as possible before settling down to watch a film I found myself preparing for the long haul when I decided to watch The Smurfs. As a kid I never really got into them but did occasionally catch a TV show or two so wasn’t flying completely into the unknown like some of the more recent comic book characters that I have reviewed.

Upon entering the world of the Smurfs we find the blue critters relaxing in their mushroom metropolis preparing for the special Blue moon festival. But all is not well- the evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria), after years of searching, has finally found their village. In the ensuing chaos he chases some of the Smurfs out of their village where they are sucked through a vortex and into our world. Determined to capture them so he can harness their Smurf goodness, Gargamel and his cat follow them through. So begins the race to get back to their world before they are captured.

Given I was expecting the absolute worst, the film managed to lift itself above that lowly bar and not bore me to tears within 20 minutes. Also, somewhat surprisingly, there were a couple of times where my preprepared grimace transformed itself into something resembling a smirk. This was in most part down to the performance of Azaria. It’s no Oscar worth performance but is probably the highest you can go whilst acting in something that has so specifically be designed for an audience whose age can be counted on one hand. This brings me to my next point…

Why does Hollywood think that just because they are making a film for children that it can forego any form of quality. They seem to take the stance that just becuase their audience is young no effort will be required to keep them entertained and who cares if it’s rubbish as it’s only a kid’s movie- just fill the screen with bright colours and hey presto instant success. I’m not sure if the fact that they think this represents entertainment or that the public actually accept it as such is more worrying to me.

One thing that slowly ate away at my sanity during The Smurfs is their habit of making sure at least every sentence has the word smurf in it whether it is being used as an insult, during a joke or just replacing a generic word. Most of the time it was used as a tool to get the Smurfs cursing away without affecting the film’s U certificate. And if that doesn’t worm its way into your head then I challenge even the most anti Smurf amongst you to escape from this film without humming their catchy Smurf tune at least a couple of times after leaving the cinema.

This is Katy Perry’s (Smurfette) first major voyage onto the big screen and I was not convinced much like many of the other voices behind the blue faces. I also don’t understand why they felt it necessary to squeeze in her singing part of one of her songs either given that it won’t make 5 year old go out and download it. The non CGI cast wasn’t much better with the casting guys plan to throw in successful TV actors not having the desired effect as they failed to impress in their roles on the big screen. Neil Patrick Harris especially didn’t work as the doting husband.

The animation just about held up but there were some points when it became obvious that the actors were interacting with themselves rather than the Smurfs particularly when being held or embraced and at other times the Smurfs looked a bit too fake. I can’t understand why, if your going to make yourself a CGI fest Smurf movie, you set it in the real world. I’m sure that it would have been a much more enjoyable film if they had stayed in ‘Smurfland’ and battled Gargamel there.

As for the story, it was atypical for a children’s film keeping the plot quite simple whilst throwing in a sprinkling of slapstick comedy and funny characters to get most of the laughs. I was expecting the adult audience to be completely disengaged but there were some moments that hit the double entendre mark and would have woken the adults whilst flying over the heads of the rest. Don’t get me wrong, this is still geared 95% to a kid audience but I was expecting 100% so was pleasantly surprised at the inclusion of a few adult themed jokes.

The only reason you are going to want to pay to see this would be if you’ve got yourself a couple of kids as they are bound to enjoy. As for the rest of us, although it wasn’t a complete waste of time (think Garfield, Alvin and the Chipmunks) I’d rather go and smurf a smurf. (Let your imaginations run wild- answers on a postcard).

Rating: D+

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