Things I Did For Love: THE SMURFS (2011).
I enjoy a fair amount of autonomy in my moviegoing choices, but that isn't always the case. Sometimes someone else gets to pick the movie. That's how I ended up seeing The Smurfs. It is and it isn’t as awful as you expect it to be. Here is a collection of the thoughts that went through my head while loaded up on sugary snacks and watching The Smurfs.
- In the beginning: The movie starts off with the most generic narration possible, but that turns out to be the mellodious voice of a new Smurf character, Narrator Smurf. That was a joke I liked! You'll be able to count them on one Smurf hand.
- Quick recap: The Smurfs live in a faraway valley where everyone happens to know all the most recent American pop songs. Prominent Smurfs featured include Papa Smurf (voice of Jonathan Winters), Jokey Smurf (voice of Paul Reubens), George Lopez Smurf (voice of George Lopez) and Smurfette (voice of cartoonish pop star Katy Perry.) So as you can see, the voice cast represents something of a distressing downward-tilting timeline of American comedy legends.
- On the movie's special effects: To be fair, the movie Smurfs aren't exactly the worst CGI creations a movie has foisted upon us (the needle is pushed once you've seen Birddemic), but to be fair again, The Smurfs do have those Scooby-Doo/Yogi Bear blank soulless eyes that have obviously glimpsed the true face of Satan.
- On the Smurfette issue: Smurfette is the only female Smurf in a village full of male Smurfs. I understand why everyone's sex questions usually center around Smurfette, but here's an equally pertinent question: How come we never see Vanity Smurf attempting to bugger the rumps of all those other Smurf dudes? You just know he has to be noticing Hefty or Handy while they’re walking around out there, lifting stuff, without their shirts on. It's 2012! Let Vanity Smurf be openly out of the mushroom closet.
- More on the plot, and on Smurf diction: The Smurfs travel to New York City via some method I already forgot about. When they get there, George Lopez Smurf asks, "Where the Smurf are we?" Try explaining that one to your kids. Smurf this, Smurf that, Smurf you... When you really think about it, these Smurfs are foul-mouthed little buggers.
- On the rest of the cast: I like a lot of the 'human' actors in this movie, but I also wonder what the thought process is when it comes to taking a role in a Smurfs movie. There can’t be any artistic fulfillment for them. You're not getting much occasion to stretch your acting ability. This isn't even really a movie you could show to even the youngest of kids with any kind of pride. I mean, if you want to take the money, that's fine, I get it, life is expensive, but maybe they should announce which charity they're donating to, so we can maintain our respect for them. I guess what I'm really pondering here is why Sofia Vergara will appear in a movie this useless, but she won't show those boobs. Which act is ultimately more harmful to one’s karma? Which would make more people happy? Just because this is an unfortunately piggish thought doesn't mean that everybody's not having it.
- One encouraging thing did happen during the movie though: In a Times Square scene, there's a Community billboard. Score one for the good guys.
- It's also nice that the script factors Peyo, the creator of the Smurfs, into the Smurf legend. In a world where the best kind of creator recognition we usually see is Stan Lee playing a hot dog vendor in a Fantastic Four sequel, this was a genuinely sweet touch.
- Also to its credit, the movie raises a question I've always wondered about: How do Smurfs get their names? Is it nature or nurture? For example: Does Brainy Smurf become a nerd because his name is Brainy Smurf, or is he born a nerd and he was given a name that captured his essence accurately from the start? It’s a quandary for the ages, but just as you're getting all fired up to ponder Smurf philosophy, the movie bypasses any answers. The question is dropped as soon as it's asked. That's what you call a major Smurftease.
- Some actors have a more arduous journey to the top: Rising star Anton Yelchin plays Clumsy Smurf, who actually gives a better performance here than he did in Star Trek. Think that one over.
- Not every SNL star can be Kristen Wiig: Kenan Thompson (Good Burger) plays a Smurf, which I get – he has experience playing cartoons from Fat Albert. But Fred Armisen? I thought he was the indie-cred SNL guy. So much for that. I would love to hear him explain this to his friends in Sleater-Kinney.
- This has been fun, but there will be no discussion of Hank Azaria's performance as Gargamel. It's shockingly, brazenly, thoroughly atrocious, the kind of thing that makes you lose all confidence in us as a species. I know the guy is talented, and it'll depress me too much to revisit this part of the experience, so let's not go into it.
- On Writing: There are four credited screenwriters on this movie. All four are reportedly adults.
- On Music: At this point, you may be wondering, is there an embarrassing 'hip-hop' rendition of the Smurfs theme song in the Smurfs movie? Yes there is. It sounds exactly like whatever you're hearing in your head right now, and I'm sorry to have planted that seed.
- Romance: Finally, you should be aware that there is a recurring joke where George Lopez Smurf comes onto a green M&M. Let me clarify: I mean he falls in love with an M&M and keeps hitting on it. I don't remember if there was any "Melts In Your Mouth" innuendo, but probably there was. It's a little weird.
Ironically, since this movie came out, Vanessa Williams has started doing the voice of the brown M&M. Now George Lopez Smurf wanting a bit of THAT, I could almost get.
Overall, I have to admit that The Smurfs exceeded my expectations. Going in, I thought it was gunning for a spot on my list of the worst movies I have ever seen, and in the end it only made the lower 20-30% zone. It’s bad, but forgettably bad, rather than the brain’s equivalent of stepping in dogcrap. I’ve seen plenty worse. I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.
Sometimes with a movie like this, you’ll hear an illiterate reviewer say something like, “If you are an adult with the heart of a child, you will love this movie.” I suppose that’s possible. You may be an adult who recently got a heart transplant, and the donor was a young child. That's intense. It wouldn’t be for me or anyone else to take away the joy of any movie from you under those circumstances. You’ve been through a lot. I do hope that you enjoy The Smurfs.
But everybody else, you know, if you have any choice, don’t see it.
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