Any movie that follows the creative template outlined by Alvin and the Chipmunks and its ‘Squeakwell‘ has more than a few wrongs to right. And there is an awful lot wrong with director Raja Gosnell’s big screen adaptation of The Smurfs.
A look quick at Gosnell’s CV, which includes Big Momma’s House, Home Alone 3, Scooby-Doo 1 and 2 and Beverly Hills Chihuahua, makes it soul-crushingly clear that he was not the right man for the job.
Unless, that is, the job was to progress Hollywood’s pathological obsession with butchering childhood memories one small blue step forward. If you’re old enough to remember watching — or even liking — Hanna-Barbera’s 80’s animated series created by Belgian cartoonist Peyo, best to chalk this brain-sapping spasm of colour and idiocy down as a must-miss.
For the uneducated, The Smurfs are a species of little blue people roughly the height of three apples who live in a magical sister universe where a cranky magician, Gargamel (Hank Azaria), is obsessed with finding them and “extracting” them into powerful potions.
When Gargamel and his wicked cat Azrael finds and gatecrashes the Smurf’s secret village the little tykes flee and accidently land in a strange place: our world, with Gargamel close on their trail. The Smurfs make friends with advertising man Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and his pregnant wife Grace (Jayma Mays). They help him succeed at work in the biggest job of his career (*cringe* ) and he helps them locate a blue portal to send them back home (*good riddance*).
There is an annoying recurring joke in which the Smurfs incessantly substitute words or parts of words for “SMURF” i.e. “we’re up Smurf creek without a paddle! Or “get Smurfed!” Ho. Ho. Ho.
The special effects are disappointingly sub-par, with the exception of Azrael, the elastic-faced crazy kitty who hits the right kooky notes. The cartoony action scenes are largely comprised of small kid slapstick.
Little of the animated show’s essence (to use Gargamel’s parlance) has been distilled into this headache-inducing big screen adventure, complete with one fattened product placement Guitar Hero scene and an overarching atmosphere of eery desperation.
By the end of the movie most viewers will fight to suppress a hankering to whip up a tasty Smurf stir-fry. It could be salted with the tears of grown up kiddies whose memories have again been sliced and diced by the Dream Factory.