The Smurfs Review: As Smurfy as Sticking a Smurf Up Your Smurf
Naturally, the story is quite far-fetched and commences when Gargamel (Hank Azaria) and his live/CGI cat Azrael (voiced by Frank Welker) locate the Smurfs' village. In terror, the little blue ones flee and (through a very convoluted process), several of them get sucked into a vortex that spits them out into Central Park. Meanwhile in the human world, Neil Patrick Harris stars as Patrick, who is attempting to be a sensitive husband to his pregnant wife, Grace (Jayma Mays), while also sparing himself the wrath of his insufferable boss, Odile (Sofia Vergara). Patrick has merely two days to complete an almost impossible task at work or lose his job, and the sudden appearance of a box full of Smurfs does nothing to boost his morale. At least, this is the case at first, and I think you can figure out the rest without spoilers to boot.
In terms of the titular CGI creatures, they're pretty creepy looking, and the Smurf voice casting is rather gimmicky in most instances: Papa (Jonathan Winters);
Trampy Smurfette (Katy Perry); Brainy (Fred Armisen); Clumsy (Anton Yelchin); and Grouchy (George Lopez, who is so omnipresent in children's movies these days that my daughter immediately recognized his voice). In addition to these original Smurfs, there's also an admittedly clever addition, Gutsy (Alan Cumming), who wears a Scottish kilt and speaks with a rip-roaring brogue. If you must know, then yes, Cumming follows his typical pattern of being the best damn thing in an otherwise crappy movie. He even saves the film from its awful Marilyn Monroe-esque air-conditioning vent scene by gratuitously inserting own kilt into the mix, and yes, Cumming's voice work makes all the difference here.
As far as the human actors involved in The Smurfs are concerned, all do especially fine jobs interacting with nonexistent creatures, especially Neil Patrick Harris, who plays the straight man (har har) quite well and is a welcome change from the likes of overacting schmucks like Jason Lee (Alvin and the Chipmunks) and James Marsden (Hop) when it comes to live action/CGI feats of humiliation. Hank Azaria camps it up to the extreme, which is to be expected from a character like Gargamel, but it's pretty tough to keep swallowing theater popcorn when his character roots through Azreal's vomit just to come up with a lock of Smurfette's hair. To be fair, that was one of the only instances of bodily-function humor at work here, but it's worth mentioning because it's a particularly egregious example. Voice work throughout the film (aside from Cumming) is far less effective, especially when it comes to Lopez (who sounds the same in every role) and Perry (whose voice varies between squeaky and high pitched to her natural contralto vocal range), the latter of whom was clearly cast just so she could utter the line, "I kissed a Smurf, and I liked it."
Ultimately, The Smurfs is a fairly mild yet slapstick adventure wherein Gargamel chases the blue creatures through Manhattan as they also frantically search for a way home. The answer, of course, has to do with a blue moon, but this movie is anything but rare. In fact, it's as generic as they come for children's fare. One or two genuinely heartwarming moments occur, including when Papa Smurf has a talk with Patrick about what it truly means to be a father, but these instances are quickly dashed aside for more Gargamel-bashing action. In other words, be prepared for your children to ask for a Smurf for Christmas, but you needn't even bother obliging with the stuffed variety. By the time December rolls around, they'll have long since forgotten this needless excuse for a movie.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at Celebitchy.
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