The Smurfs

To say I am a fan of nostalgia is an understatement.  As a fan of film and television, I regularly revisit the things that tickled me as a child and love most of them just as much as I did back them.  A few months ago, I rewatched the entire run of The Wonder Years.  This afternoon, I spent most of my drive time rocking out to the soundtrack of A Goofy Movie.  In fact, Im relatively sure that my bonds with most of the Fandom Menace team is rooted deep in our shared loves of things from our past that act as unbreakable tethers of “remember when.”  So one would think that I would adore all of the modern day remakes of classic characters from my childhood.

One would be very wrong.  The biggest problem with most of these remakes isn’t that I think they should remain in their original form or that they absolutely need the original actors back to voice the characters.  That isn’t the case.  I understand the reasoning for changing things up and accept it.  What I do have a problem with, however, is when these modern remakes completely miss the point and charm that made the original so endearing.  Yogi Bear, Alvin and the Chipmunks and Garfield were all recently decimated at the cinema by fart jokes and ill conceived plot points, so how did The Smurfs fare?

In this modern age of storytelling, it seems that filmmakers are afraid to tell a straightforward story about anything and The Smurfs is no exception.  Instead of setting the film in the magical mushroom village the Smurfs call home, the movie has six of them magically transported to modern day New York City along with their pursuer, an evil sorcerer named Gargamel (Hank Azaria) and his cat Azrael.  Stuck in a world they can’t possibly understand, The Smurfs enlist the help of Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris), a marketing director, and his pregnant wife Grace (Jayma Mays) to aid them in both escaping their would-be captor and finding a way to return home.  If the plot sounds familiar, its because it is.  It was applied a few years ago to a film called Enchanted which, although I didn’t like, did it far better then The Smurfs.

The movie stumbles creatively for a foothold, trying to grab onto something that will entertain the audience but coming up short every time.  Needless to say, the reason that the story was transported to New York City was so that the script could be peppered with out of place pop culture jokes and references, all of which fall flat.  In one scene, Smurfette (Katy Perry) stands over a grate and her skirt blown up around her waste  a’la Marilyn Monroe in the Seven Year Itch, which isn’t just a worn out joke, but also wildly inappropriate for the target audience.  The other half of the jokes are split between crude  and badly executed “Smurf” related “jokes” (“Who smurfed?,” “Smurf happens,” etc.) and jokes aimed at exploiting the one note nature of every character.  We get it.  Clumsy Smurf is clumsy.  But to have him trip, slip and crash into everything he comes in contact with and expect a laugh isn’t funny.  Its cheap and its sad and kids deserve better.  I grew up with The Secret of N.I.M.H.  and kids today get this nonsense?

The most offensive thing in this movie, however, isn’t the cheap attempts at humor.  Instead, it comes from the glaring plot holes left in the story.  To assume that because The Smurfs is a kids movie means that the story doesn’t need to make sense is preposterous.  In one particular scene, The Smurfs have found the key ingredients that will get them back home when Gargamel bursts in and chases them around.  The six of them run into a nearby storm drain where Gargamel cannot follow.  This is when Papa Smurf bravely exits the drain, tells his fellow Smurfs that he will hold Gargamel at bay to facilitate their escape and closes the drain cover behind him.  Now, of course, this moment is meant to serve a purpose in giving the Smurfs a reason to go after Gargamel, but that doesn’t overshadow the glaring reality that all six of them could have easily escaped and returned home, ensuring their continued safety by leaving Gargamel to rot in New York City for the rest of his days.  Instead, why not have Gargamel burst in, dive for the drain pipe and grab Papa Smurf as they all try to escape into the drain, taking him from his family and giving them actual purpose in trying to rescue him?

Questions like this plague the entire film as the writers, Jay Scherick, David Ronn, J. David Stem and David N. Weiss (who collectively brought us Zookeeper, Norbit, Daddy Day Camp and Are We There Yet?), cant seemed to be bothered with the idea of telling a coherent story.  Add Raja Gosnell, the director behind Big Momma’s House and Beverly Hills Chihuahua, and you’ve got a crack team of terrible storytellers that show absolutely no respect for their audience.  The while film reeks of cynicism and bad Sony product placement which is completely in contrast to the spirit of the original story and characters.  Try as they might, even the mighty talents of some of the supporting cast can’t save it.  Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays do their best, but between the nonsensical story points and the flat dialogue, there isn’t much for either of them to work with.  Hank Azaria does his best to bring his off-kilter sense of humor to the character of Gargamel, but even he fails to deliver anything worth laughing at.

As a movie, The Smurfs wants us to care for these characters.  But when the film spends most of the movie making fun of their simple way of life and innocence, its hard to get on its side.  Like a school yard bully, it knocks them over and then expects you to think its cool.  In doing so, the film does little to earn adoration and instead only reminds us of why we loved the Smurfs to begin with, loathe this new incarnation of them and hang our heads collectively in shame as we realize that two sequels are already on the way.

RATING:  1/10




~ by Andrew Craig on August 21, 2011.

One Response to “The Smurfs”

  1. And, of course, the Smurfs film is crammed with illuminati symbols. Their blue colour refers to the blue blood of the Anunnaki, the white hat to the white hair of the Annnaki, the blue moon to their home planet Nibiru, etc 😛 😛

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