In 1981, Saturday morning cartoons were introduced to a 1958 comic strip called The Smurfs. It was quirky, weird, innocent and from Belgium. Despite all the people saying it would never work, it still did. In fact, The Smurfs ran as a cartoon on Saturday mornings for 8 more years and generated hundreds of millions of dollars in merchandise. So is it that crazy to think that a feature length, live-action movie based on the same characters would still work 22 years after the show was canceled? The people at Columbia Pictures didn't think so, but good God were they wrong.
Yes it's true that director Michael Bay took another '80s Saturday morning cartoon, Transformers, and created a juggernaut franchise. That does not mean that it will work every time. Especially when you ignore what made Transformers so successful and that was to make it appeal to the adults that loved it as kids. The Smurfs is a PG-rated piece of dribble that insults the intelligence of adults who see it for nostalgia and bores the children that don't know it at all.
Even talented performers like Hank Azaria (The Simpsons, The Birdcage) and Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) can't pump life into this. In fact, I was embarrassed for them while watching it. Especially for Azaria who is one of the greatest comedic character actors out there right now. He gave his performance as the villainous wizard Gargamel the best he possibly could but it overshoots campy and just comes across desperate.
The biggest problem comes from hiring Raja Gosnell to direct it. This man hasn't made a good movie yet and seems to have the bargain bin DVD movie at Walmart down pretty good. He's the disaster that's given us films like Scooby Doo, Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Big Momma's House. Congrats Mr. Gosnell, because you've added another travesty to your catalog of crap cinema.
The Smurfs is a rotten script with bad voice acting from some very talented people. Even people like the legendary Jonathan Winters (It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World), Alan Cumming (X-Men 2), Fred Armisen (NBC's SNL, Anchorman) and Anton Yelchin (Star Trek, Fright Night) couldn't help it. It almost seems like an insult too that they had to perform besides George Lopez and Katy Perry...and yes, they both suck as much as you think they would.
The jokes in the film are awful and too on-the-nose even for the 7-year-old I brought with me. I suppose the writers thought it was edgy and funny to replace a swear word with the word "smurf" but after you hear it every 5 minutes or so, it just makes you think the movie is smurfing horrible. The best thing The Smurfs has going for it is the infectious theme song they sing over and over and over again. At least hearing that brought back to the surface some pleasant childhood memories...just too bad they were then sullied by this movie.
The Smurfs (Rated PG)
Gavin Grade: F