The Smurfs
dir Raja Gosnell
prd Jordan Kerner
scr J David Stem, David N Weiss, Jay Scherick, David Ronn
with Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, Hank Azaria, Sofia Vergara
voices Jonathan Winters, Anton Yelchin, Katy Perry, Alan Cumming, George Lopez, Fred Armisen, Tom Kane, John Oliver
release US 29.Jul.11, UK 10.Aug.11
11/US Columbia 1h26
The Smurfs
Guitar hero: Harris and friends

harris azaria perry
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Smurfs A simplistic approach means that this charming adventure-comedy will only appeal to very young children. While it's lively and enjoyably silly, there's just not enough wit in the story or characters, nor enough skill in the animation.

Life is idyllic for the tiny blue Smurfs, whose village is hidden from view in a European valley. But the evil-but-hapless wizard Gargamel (Azaria) wants to capture their magical essence and, when he finds their village, he chases six of them through a vortex that dumps them into Manhattan. Lost in the city, the Smurfs befriend Patrick (Harris) and his pregnant wife Grace (Mays), whose help they need to both escape Gargamel and regenerate the vortex to get home. Meanwhile, Patrick's under pressure from his boss (Vergara) to come up with an ad campaign.

Pretty much everything in the script is pasted in from other children's movies, including manic action from Home Alone, sight-gags from Toy Story and overexcited human-animation interaction like the Chipmunk movies. The comedy is broad and obvious, focussing on slapstick pratfalls and corny jokes, especially where Azaria's zany baddie is concerned. Although at least there are a few clever visual jokes, and the human cast is engaging.

It also helps that we don't have to keep track of all 101 Smurfs; these six are much more manageable, given lively voices by Winters (Papa), Yelchin (Clumsy), Perry (Smurfette), Cumming (a bizarrely Scottish Gutsy), Lopez (a bizarrely Latino Grouchy) and Armison (Brainy). And at least the screenwriters make amusing references to the similarities to the Seven Dwarfs, plus the slightly creepy fact that Smurfette is the only female in the village.

But there isn't nearly enough of this knowing humour to keep adults interested. Every plot point is so obvious that there's never a moment of suspense, and the trite moral (about being true to your heart) is sickeningly sentimental. Meanwhile, the animation is colourful and energetic, although it sometimes looks done on the cheap, as Gargamel's cat sidekick only occasionally resembles an actual cat, and the Smurfs look like plastic toys (merchandising alert!). It's no wonder that Gargamel wants to melt them down.

cert u themes, some violence 17.Jul.11

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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall