I wasn’t really sure what to expect with The Smurfs, but I knew I had to see it anyway. I was a big fan of the cartoon when I was younger, as were many others I guess, so I was actually really looking forward to the live-action/animation merger.
I thought about the other films that have been done in similar fashion: Casper, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Flintstones, Enchanted, Alvin and the Chipmunks and Garfield. While there are various positives and negatives between each of these I would have to rank them Rabbit, Enchanted, Chipmunks, Casper, Garfield, Flintstones. How do the Smurfs rank in such a ranking?
The Smurfs is not a simple recreation of the cartoon in live action format. It’s much more than that; it’s a story that uses the Smurfs as a tool for Patrick Winslow, played by Neil Patrick Harris, helping him come to terms with his impending fatherhood.
The story was crafted well. On the one hand you have the happy-go-lucky, singsong nature of the Smurfs adventure in a very unfamiliar and strange world, NYC. This adventure was pretty much textbook as it followed a basic structure:
Here the Smurfs are in their own world. They are happy, singing songs and dancing. They are in their element.
The evil wizard Gargamel is obsessed with capturing Smurfs and stumbles upon their village. This causes a scene where Smurfs are running for their lives while Gargamel and his cat Azrael are chasing them. In the process the Smurfs and their pursuers are engulfed by a vortex and transported to a different world, NYC.
A Different World
While in NYC we see the Smurfs as they adventure through the city, trying to blend in the best they can. In order to avoid Azrael, Clumsy Smurf falls into a box belonging to Patrick. To save their friend the other Smurfs hitch a ride on a cab back to Winslow’s apartment. Winslow lives with his wife, Grace, played by Jayma Mays, and their dog Elway. Soon after arriving at the apartment the two worlds collide as the Smurfs are discovered.
Finding A Way Back Home
The rest of the movie, from a Smurf standpoint, deals with the Smurfs trying to discover a way to get back to their village and their beloved companions. In this discovery process we get to see them smurfing about NYC streets, in department stores, and then in a bookstore. All looks well and good until Gargamel captures Papa Smurf. It’s at this point when the Smurfs along with help from the Winslow’s devise a plot to rescue Papa and defeat Gargamel, enabling a safe return to Smurf village.
During the course of the Smurf’s adventure we see Patrick Winslow as a nervous marketing manager for a designer perfume company. He is on pins and needles with his demanding boss and the stress is ever apparent. We also find that his wife is pregnant and he has to deal with the realization that he’s going to be a father soon. This notion is something he’s struggling with internally and it’s not until he talks with Papa Smurf and helps the little blue people out that he’s able to understand how wonderful parenting is going to be, and the true nature of the blessing he’s been given.
There is another message that’s on display in the film. This message being that we must make our own destiny, we cannot fall prey to predetermined notions or stereotypes. This idea is shown in two ways: The first is the premonition or vision that Papa Smurf has at the early stages of the film, where he sees an apocalypse of sorts. The second can be found within the character of Clumsy Smurf. Clumsy gets into all sorts of trouble. He is boycotted from the Blue Moon festival in Smurf Village, he’s left behind as the other Smurfs head out to find the “stargazer” they need to get back home, and through his clumsiness he accidentally trips over Patrick’s computer, sending an incorrect marketing campaign to his boss. Clumsy is seen as a good hearted soul, but one who happens to be a trouble magnet and therefore avoided and/or left out of the picture for most of his life. It turns out that both of these preconceptions are incorrect, in fact it’s Clumsy that prevents Papa’s vision from being realized.
Some of the things I found most interesting in the film were the way the writers handled the story. Instead of just ignoring the reality of fact that the Smurfs are simply little creatures that appear and make a story with this in mind, the writers adhere to the facts. They illustrate the Smurfs are based on a Belgium myth, created by Peyo. They find a book of Smurf lore in an old bookstore. The mythical nature is even researched on Google and the Blue Moon referenced on Wikipedia. The inclusion of such details added an extra dimension to the film, making it all the more enjoyable.
Another thing that was done, that I particularly enjoyed, was a consistency of color used throughout the film. From the Smurfs themselves to a Blue Moon festival, from the two instances atop NYC cabs, one showing an advertisement for the Blue Men Group, the second an ad for Blu-Ray, to the literal blue moon that hung over NYC at film’s end.
The last thing I really enjoyed was the adherence to Smurfy details, which in a way is almost played with in a parody type fashion. We see numerous instances of Smurf this or Smurf that, we see the singing and humming of the Smurfs almost incessantly, but we also see that despite their surroundings, despite the overwhelming nature residing in the possibility that they don’t ever get home, the Smurfs never give up hope, and despite a very brief period of sadness, they remain their upbeat and bright-side looking selves throughout the film, again almost to a point of parody. In fact, they do it so well it almost seems like they fit right into this world, despite their appearance. Gargamel on the other hand, who looks just like any random human, is the one who is consistently seen as out of place.
The only part of the film that wasn’t needed whatsoever was a scene where Gargamel interacted with Patrick’s boss, Odile, played by Sofia Vergara. There really isn’t any point to their meeting or interacting. Outside the added comedic moments the two scenes bring about the only other reasons I can come up with for these ten or so minutes being included is perhaps showing off some of Gargamel’s power or perhaps just a simple bridge to place the evil wizard near the toy store where the Smurfs were at.
Despite being unnecessary, these scenes don’t influence my thoughts on the film in any way. The film is intended towards a younger audience, which kids will love, but there’s enough in here for the adult viewer, familiar with the cartoon as well as for those never having seen the Smurfs before.