La la la la la la, la la la la la!
I practically grew up watching The Smurfs cartoons, but I was sceptical when I heard they were making a film version — in ‘please rip me off’ 3D’, no less. Nonetheless, despite my better judgment, I decided to check it out. It wasn’t easy finding a 2D session, but I managed to squeeze one into my busy schedule (damn you 3D films!).
I have to admit I rather enjoyed The Smurfs. The voices weren’t quite what I remembered (Katy Perry as Smurfette?) but it was a fun trip down nostalgia lane. The jokes may be targeted primarily at children, but it was good to see that many jokes were also self-referential and tongue-in-cheek. Some fell flat but even one laugh was more than I had expected from the film. Great to see director Raja Gosnell (who has a pretty dodgy resume with films such as Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Big Momma’s House and Scooby-Doo) not completely stuff this up.
The premise is recycled and doesn’t require familiarity with the old comics or cartoons. It uses the formula laid down by Enchanted, where the cartoon characters live in their cartoonish world but are magically transported into the real world. The Smurfs’ human ally in the real world is none other than Doogie Howser himself, Neil Patrick Harris, who I never seem to get tired of. Harris is not bad but is completely overshadowed by the true star of the show, the villain Gargamel, played masterfully by Hank Azaria.
Ultimately, The Smurfs really isn’t all that different from your typical kiddie holiday film in that it has a formulaic plot and relies on childish jokes and a lot of silliness. I thought I’d be rolling my eyes every couple of seconds but I ended up liking it more than I expected. I’m just glad my favourite Smurf, Brainy, was given one of the more prominent roles amongst the Smurfs (I always like the dickhead characters).
Interestingly, despite lukewarm critical reviews, audience reception of The Smurfs has been pretty good, especially amongst the younger demographic. A sequel is already being planned for 2013.
3 stars out of 5