The good news about the big-screen 3-D version of The Smurfs is that it’s not the insipid — and some say “socialist” — Smurfs you remember from 1980s TV.
Yes, they’re still tiny and blue. They still use “smurf ” as a verb, adverb, swear word, etc.
“Where the smurf are we?” “We’re up the smurfing creek without a paddle.”
And they’re still socialists, living in a village “where each Smurf has his place” and his place is defined by his or her name — Baker Smurf, Jokey Smurf, Gutsy Smurf, Grouchy Smurf.
In mocking the Smurfcentricity of that original show, the movie rises above its source material just enough to dull the dread many adults share in realizing their kids will want to see it.
Clumsy Smurf (voiced by Anton Yelchin) blunders into revealing the hidden Smurf Village with its tiny mushroom houses to the evil wizard Gargamel, played to the hilt by Hank Azaria — in the flesh. As mushrooms are stomped and Smurfs scatter into the forest, a half-dozen of the little blue darlings are sucked into a “blue moon” vortex. Clumsy, Gutsy (Alan Cumming), Grouchy (George Lopez), Papa ( Jonathan Winters), Brainy (Fred Armisen) and Smurfette (Katy Perry) find themselves in Central Park in New York.
And who among the Big Apple masses can see little blue people? Patrick (played by Neil Patrick Harris), who’s a marketing exec working for a tyrant (Sofia Vergara, over-the-top and funny) that threatens him with unemployment at every turn.
That’s scary, because Patrick and his wife, Grace (Jayma Mays of Glee), are expecting. Patrick has to help the Smurfs determine when the next “blue moon” is and where they can find the formula to a magic potion that will send them home.
The movie, based on Belgian artist Peyo’s characters, manages cute jabs at corporate culture (Patrick’s tie looks like a “leash” to a Smurf ) and the blue all around us. They hide in Blue Man Group posters and Blu-ray disc ads and chase guys talking on their Bluetooth earpieces.
Perry’s Smurfette faces awkward questions about being a rare female Smurf and blurts out, “I kissed a Smurf, and I liked it!” Harris gets to make wisecracks about how annoying “The Smurf Song” is, and Azaria gripes, “Do not be fooled by their cuteness!” Neither actor lets on that this is just a job, with Azaria, in particular, letting it all hang out in scene after scene.
The slapstick is very small-kid friendly, and even the most adult-friendly jokes are pretty mild stuff.
Yeah, the Smurfs are still sickeningly sweet and upbeat. But if you’ve got kids, it’s not nearly as torturous to sit through as you might have feared.
I smurf you not.
—MCT, Tribune Media Service Respond:firstname.lastname@example.org