Thank goodness The Smurfs was not the god-awful trainwreck everyone made it out to be, or else I would have wasted thirty minutes in line to see another failed cartoon adaptation.
I won’t say it’s good, but it was surprisingly not bad. Of course, The Smurfs does not exactly have enough substance to hold a full-grown adult’s attention for all of its 86 minutes, but it is a surefire hit with the kids. The linear and simple plot follows a small group of Smurfs that get accidentally sucked into a portal to the human world while trying to escape the evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria). The little blue people quickly enlist the help of married couple Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and Grace (Jayma Mays) to protect them from Gargamel, who plans to harvest the Smurfs’ essence for magical power, and to re-create a portal that only happens once in a blue moon…
The movie includes some emotional subplots with Papa Smurf and Patrick, who feels he is unready to start his own family; though it all becomes pretty unnecessary in the face of the Smurfs’ main goal to return home. Humor, again, mainly appeals to the kids, sporting sight gag after sight gag, but every once in a while there’s a clever reference thrown in for the older folks in the audience. Hank Azaria gives about the most cartoonish performance as any villain could, resulting in an upsetting mix of interest and annoyance. On the other hand, where it is used the CGI is incredibly high-quality (i.e. the Smurfs, Gargamel’s cat, etc.), and the special effects are designed more specifically for 3-D viewing than in most movies as of late.
I know some people have proclaimed this film to be a bastardization of a childhood cartoon favorite, but I argue that it isn’t. The film is very aware of its origins with Peyo and respects that fact. They actually pay direct homage to the creator towards the end of the story. An exact imitation of the cartoon series this movie is not, but it is a fun and well-intentioned take on the story.
The Smurfs is mildly entertaining, at its best, but it is written with the right spirit and is in no way an injustice against the original series. It offers a nostalgic throwback (with a modern twist) for the adults and an amusing show for the little ones. For the ones in between, I advise avoiding this movie.