The SMURFS 3D Starring Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays. Voiced by Jonathan Winters, Katy Perry and Alan Cumming. Directed by Raja Gosnell. 103 minutes. Rated PG.
Based on a comic book series from 1958, The Smurfs have been delighting readers and later television viewers for decades. With the development of computer generated imagery, it was just a matter of time until they debuted on the silver screen. But The Smurfs 3D is not just an animation film. It belongs to that new category, ‘CGI/live-action hybrid’.
And although it has received less than wonderful reviews from critics, so far it has taken $461m worldwide.
The story is basic. When the evil wizard Gargamel chases the tiny blue Smurfs out of their village, led by Papa Smurf they tumble from their magical world and on to earth, or to be more precise, right into the middle of of Central Park, New York City. There they meet Patrick and Grace, a married and expectant couple who befriend them and allow them to stay in their apartment.
Papa Smurf learns that he will be able to get them all home in a couple nights. But first, he must figure out the spell to do so. Patrick tells them that there is an old book store in the city, and they head there to get a spell book. After lots of searching, they find one of their own comic books, containing the spell. Gargamel hears where they are, so he sneaks into the book store and finds a dragon wand, which he then steals. He uses the dragon wand to abduct Papa Smurf. A battle between good and evil ensues. You can probably pick the ending.
The Smurfs, whether it is in 3D or not, is a cute story for younger children. It ticks all the right boxes – honour, duty, caring for each other, self-sacrifice and the power of good over evil.
That said, there are annoying things in it that distract. Like a swear word we hear all the time, smurf is used as a noun, verb, transitive and intransitive verbs, an adjective, part of an adverb and even as an adverb enhancing an adjective. Now that takes work, but the allusion is not lost on the adults and it wares very thin indeed.
Maybe I am getting hyper-sensitive, but I also took exception to the characterisation of the evil Gargamel. He looked more like a medieval monk than a wizard to me, and given that he wants to abuse the seemingly defenceless smurfs for his wicked ways, the characterisation was suggestive of another very different story. He also appears to suffer from angular kyphosis (the proper name for a hunchback), so The Smurfs keep going the dreadful calumny that really evil people are physically disabled as well.
Kids under ten may love it. Adults might enjoy it in parts, but at 103 minutes, it overstays its welcome.
Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the director of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out Tasmania: September 1; Qld: September 8, all other states September 15, 2011.