Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Smurfs [ Movie Review ] ★★1/2

The Pitch

Back when I was a kid, Sunday mornings used to mean a healthy dose of The Smurfs cartoon. The lovely "bluelings" and their conflicts with their arch enemy Gargamel was the entertainment of the weekend. It's been years since the last time I watched a Smurf cartoon but fond memories remained etched.

Fast forward to 2011, The Smurfs are coming onto the big screen and being a movie fan, it's hard to give up the chance to catch up with "old friends", even if it meant that the setting will be at New York City and most of the Smurfs are not getting their original voice talents behind them.

The Plot

It's the Blue Moon Festival and The Smurfs are rehearsing their dance routine. Almost everyone is involved with the celebration except Clumsy Smurf for he is a walking disaster. In the meanwhile Papa Smurf had a vision that showed the Smurfs in suspended cages and Clumsy fumbling for a dragon wand. It was not a good premonition and that got Papa Smurf worried.

In an attempt to prevent the premonition from coming true, Papa Smurf kept Clumsy from gathering the herbs outside the Smurfs village. Clumsy probably felt left out from all the activities, went against Papa Smurf's wishes and tried to prove the other Smurfs wrong. However, Gargamel happened to spot Clumsy and followed him back to the village.

A big havoc ensured when Gargamel started to wreck the village and attempted to catch the smurfs. While making their escape, Clumsy misread a sign and run into a forbidden cave. Papa Smurf, Smurfette, Grouchy, Brainy and Gutsy went after him to recuse him. They were all sucked into a waterfall vortex caused by the blue moon and finds themselves transported to New York City.

In New York City, they befriend Patrick and Grace, a married couple who is expecting their first child. Patrick, a marketing executive for a cosmetic brand and a demanding boss, wasn't that please to put up with these little blue people but did it for Grace. Together, they tried to find a way back to Smurfs village while Gargamel is hot on their trail.

The Perspective 

For a old timer like me, The Smurfs didn't felt like the Smurfs that I once knew. Something is lost in this big screen adaptation of the well loved cartoon / comics. Kids, Folks who are new to this and less critical people would probably enjoy this movie more than me.

Let's start with what went wrong for me. It's a tell tale sign that a movie studio do not trust the property at hand. The displacement of Smurfs to New York City, the inclusion of actors like Neil Patrick Harris, having Katy Perry, Anton Yelchin, Alan Cumming & etc to voice the Smurfs and using well known reality star from Project Runway Tim Gunn were all obvious tactics that the movie studio used to lure in the customers, in case that the Smurf fans are not flocking into the project. I wouldn't say that they did a bad job but it just didn't feel very Smurfy.

I couldn't help but notice that kids in my theater started to talk when the focus shifted to Neil Patrick Harris' character and the work problems he faced in New York city. I am guessing that NPH was hired so that he could draw in the teenage crowd but this time round, I am siding with the kids. The Smurf movie could have been better without the addition of NPH and his character's subplot.

The voice over for The Smurfs took a while to get use to. Katy Perry was pretty good as Smurfette. Her voice over invoked the memory of Lucille Bliss' rendition of Smurfette while retaining her own distinctness. George Lopez and Anton Yelchin rendition of Grouchy and Clumsy respectively were pretty off. There's very little trace of the old Grouchy and Clumsy in this movie and frankly, I miss the old two. Hank Azaria's performance as Gargamel was as good as Katy Perry's Smurfette. It's not exactly the old Gargamel that we were accustom to but it's as close what a live actor could carry out.

We are selling Guitar Hero!
If there's anything that I dislike intensely about this movie, it would be the product placement for Guitar Hero. It felt like an unnecessary full length commercial that wasted precious screen time to enhance the story telling process.

But then again, the relocation of the Smurfs backdrop, the usage of more popular celebrities had already pointed out that this movie is made with the intent to squeeze the cash cow rather than to make a proper homage to the beloved memories of the old cartoon / comics. This blatant product placement shouldn't come as a surprise but it still left a memorable bad aftertaste.  

To summarize, this Smurf movie isn't really all that Smurfy. Perhaps I am too cynical about what went wrong with my expectation of what should make up a Smurf Movie but I think the new generation deserved something more than this. There are plans for a sequel to The Smurfs movie and I hope that the next time round, the movie maker would stay more rooted to the origin of the old blue ones.

Worth the 3D Ticket?

There were a couple of times, I took my glasses off to watch this movie and it was much better than experience. The quality was better and even the freckles on the Smurfs face could be seen. Quite often, during my glasses off period, the image on screen wasn't even that fuzzy at all.  

The only scene that I was impressed with the 3Dness of this movie would be when Gargamel used a leaves blower in a toys department. There's a scene with the flying leaves that came from the audience perspective and were sucked into the blower. Quite a niffy scene but other than that, there nothing much about this 3D movie to be wowed with.

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