If you grew up in the 1980s, you probably know of the Smurfs. You probably know about the little blue men (and creepily enough the only blue woman) living in an enchanted forest. Remember, the band of brothers who spend all day harvesting berries and singing an annoying tune over and over again until it is scorched into your memory for life. And (here it comes) they interject the word for their species – “Smurf” into every possible word they can; be it an adjective, adverb or noun they will find a use for it. They are, in a the eyes of a child and possibly in several adults’ memories, a “smurf-tacular” creature (I can’t believe I typed that).
Now, after years of lying dormant, the Smurfs are back on the big screen and in animated digital 3D. Luckily they came back with Narrator Smurf who brings both long-time fans and the new generation up to speed.
We find our little blue creatures living a life of carefree luxury in their mushroom homes, preparing themselves for the Blue Moon Festival where the moon actually turns blue. Meanwhile, the sorcerer Gargamel (played by Hank Azaria, who is using a similar enunciation that he uses to voice Moe in “The Simpsons”) is preparing himself to hunt down the Smurfs to steal their essence. I was confused quickly on why Gargamel needed the essence of a blue creature that stands three apples high but the story moved on quickly.
Papa Smurf (voiced by Jonathan Winter), the village elder and visionary for the Smurfs, is in his lab seeing visions of things to come. He foresees that Clumsy Smurf (voiced by Anton Yelchin) is about to inadvertently place the town in trouble. While trying to divert Clumsy from his fate, Papa Smurf starts another chain reaction where he and five other smurfs end up in a vortex that leads them straight to New York City. Don’t ask why a vortex from an enchanted mushroom village leads straight into one of the largest cities on the planet.
While in the Big Apple the Smurfs befriend a young couple, Patrick and Grace Winslow (played by Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays). Patrick has just been promoted to VP of Marketing for a cosmetic company and they have a baby on the way. The Smurfs need to find a way back home while Gargamel is hot on their trail. Conveniently, in a city of millions, the adversaries keeping running into each other. These little blue creatures fresh out of the mushroom patch can navigate around NYC easier than any cabbie with 30 years experience.
The story does take the viewer down the typical kiddie flick path where each Smurf finds that they have special abilities and can find courage when they need it the most. Brainy Smurf (voiced by Fred Armisen) finds that he can be a sorcerer just like Papa Smurf. Grouchy Smurf (voiced by George Lopez) finds that he doesn’t have to be a jerk all of the time. Smurfette (voiced by Katy Perry) finds that she doesn’t have to wear the same dress everyday.
Should you see this movie? If you grew up with the cartoon series or the comic book and have kids aged 4-12, this would be a good film for you. It gives a good introduction to a newer generation of Smurf-mania. The writers did allow some room for the series to poke fun at itself, asking questions such as – why is there is only one girl smurf for every 75 boy smurfs? They also have fun with how each Smurf obtains their name based on each individual’s personality trait. There is also a delightful connection back to Peyo, the the creator of the Smurfs.
The standout character among the more than 70 CGI Smurfs, real life actors and the city of New York would have to be the cat, Azrael (played by Mr. Krinkle). Azrael, Gargamel’s side kick, is a real cat with CGI added in for additional body gestures and facial expressions. Every time that feline was on the screen, he was able to deliver the jokes with impeccable timing. He did give something that both parents and kids could enjoy.