Everything is not sunshine and rainbows for the Smurfs after Clumsy (voice by Anton Yelchin) unintentionally reveals the secret entrance of their village to Gargamel (Hank Azaria). In an attempt to capture the little creatures, the evil wizard goes on a rampage, smashing their tiny mushroom houses and destroying their community’s infrastructure. Running for safety, Papa (voice by Jonathan Winters), Gutsy (voice by Alan Cummings), Brainy (voice by Fred Armisen), Grouchy (voice by George Lopez), Smurfette (voice by Katy Perry) and Clumsy take a detour down a dangerous path that leads to a dead end.
Just in time—and thanks to the arrival of a blue moon—a portal leading to another world opens up. In a panic, the little blue creatures jump in and find themselves transported to the middle of New York City’s Central Park. In short order, they manage to take refuge in the home of Patrick Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris) and his pregnant wife Grace (Jayma Mays).
Not to be foiled in his attempt to steal the Smurfs’ essence, Gargamel hops into the same opening and follows the blue beings to the Big Apple.
Despite my earlier exposure to these cartoon characters (or maybe because of it), I didn’t relish the idea of spending 90 minutes of a Friday afternoon with them. Their theme song is one of those irritating ditties that I will be forced to hear over and over in my head for at least a week and their vocabulary is atrocious. Who besides teenagers can use one word (like in the case of teens, smurf in the case of Smurfs) to such excess? Unfortunately, I also discovered the new generation of these little creatures have a saltier side to their dialogue, using smurfonyms to replace profanities (such as smurf off and son of a smurf). That, combined with some sexual innuendo and a reenactment of Marilyn Monroe’s famous shot from the movie The Seven Year Itch, makes these Smurfs a racier bunch than their Saturday morning predecessors. While cartoon-type violence is to be expected, the characters in this movie are frequently in peril with some of them being smashed by a bus, stunned with a taser and exposed to scientific experimentation.
Luckily it’s the live actors that save this film. Looking remarkably like his cartoon character, Hank Azaria gets most of the funny lines in the script and manages to pull off his evil role with engaging aplomb and exaggeration. The important life lessons that all children’s movies feel motivated to include come thanks to the characters played by Harris and May who discover the joy of living in the moment.
By the time I left the theater, I had to admit my afternoon with The Smurfs, went better than I imagined it would. But that might simply be due to a case of low expectations.