The Smurfs Review
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When I was a kid, I absolutely adored the Smurfs. I watched the cartoon every Saturday, and I had a pretty extensive collection of little blue Smurf figurines (complete with a little mushroom house). So when I first heard that the Smurfs were returning to the big screen, I was eager to reconnect with my old cartoon friends. Unfortunately, though, the updated version doesn’t have any of the charm of the animated series.

Unlike Disney’s Winnie the Pooh—a film that chose to go the old if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it route—The Smurfs chose to change almost everything about the beloved series. Gone are the simple, imaginative animation and the cozy comfort of Smurf Village. Instead, The Smurfs goes down the same ill-advised CGI / live-action path that many other childhood favorites have traveled. The effortless storytelling has been replaced by a mess of muddled messages. And while the opening scenes take place in Smurf Village, the film quickly leaves the magical medieval setting behind for the generic hustle and bustle of modern-day New York City.

As the Festival of the Blue Moon approaches, Papa Smurf (voiced by Jonathan Winters) has a troubling vision involving Clumsy (voiced by Anton Yelchin). Though Papa tries to keep him out of trouble, Clumsy wanders off into the forest and leads the Smurfs’ enemy, the evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria), to their village. As they’re running away, Clumsy makes a dangerous wrong turn—and as some of the others attempt to save him, they’re all sucked into a portal that drops them (along with Gargamel and his sinister cat, Azrael) in Central Park.

Clumsy’s bumbling leads the Smurfs to Patrick Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris) and his pregnant wife, Grace (Jayma Mays). And as Gargamel tries to track them down, Papa Smurf tries to find a way to return them to their home.

But that’s not all; the film is an absolute jumble of storylines. There’s also a subplot involving Patrick working on an ad campaign for his demanding boss (Sofía Vergara) and another one involving Patrick’s anxiety about becoming a “papa.” There’s a storyline about how Clumsy feels left out because he’s so clumsy. And there’s something about some kind of “Smurf essence,” which can make people look younger—but it could also either (a) help Gargamel find the Smurfs or (b) make Gargamel invincible. Maybe both. I’m not really sure.

Sadly, the film’s opening scene shows how magical it could have been. It’s bright and fun, with some surprisingly remarkable 3D animation. Once the story leaves Smurf Village, though, it’s just a bunch of gross-out jokes and animal cruelty, with the word “smurf” used in place of grown-up words (as in the film’s tag lines, like “Smurf happens” or “Where the Smurf are we?”).

Meanwhile, there are a number of unnecessary new characters—like Alan Cumming’s kilt-clad Gutsy, whose main purpose is to make thinly-veiled references to his kilt-covered anatomy. And Hank Azaria’s goofy-looking live-action Gargamel makes the whole thing feel like a bad joke.

Instead of taking grown-up fans for a lovable trip down Memory Lane and initiating a new generation of young fans, The Smurfs is just another dim-witted comedy for kids. So if you loved the Smurfs as a kid—and you’d like to share them with your own children—you’re better off picking up the DVDs (or maybe searching for some of the episodes on YouTube) and skipping this unfortunate adaptation.

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