When the evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria) chases the tiny blue Smurfs out of their village, they tumble from their magical world through a wormhole and into ours in the bright lights of New York City. Now they must find a way back before Gargamel captures them all and drains them of their magical blue essence. They’re going to need some human help first.
If the plotline sounds familiar, then that’s because it is – the idea of mixing live-action and animation was done in the hit 2007 film Enchanted when Giselle pops up and falls in love with a human character in the Big Apple. The Smurfs is much less inventive and charming, and far more slapstick for kids with lots of death-defying accidents and puerile toilet humour, especially when Gargamel is in the frame.
The single most annoying factor for adults here is ‘Smurf-zing’ of all words in the English language. This starts out as quite quaint and a bit of a giggle to share with the kids, but fast wears thin. Still, the little blue people are so cute, cuddly and funny at times that all is very often forgiven as they put a smile back on your pained face – especially when they sing their hypnotic little song that’s actually more fun to sing/hum post-viewing to annoy the hell out of others.
Like all kiddies’ films, the adult heroes are also ‘cute and cuddly’ and funny in a dopey, inoffensive sense. These performances are provided by Neil Patrick Harris as pressurised marketing director Patrick Winslow and Ugly Betty’s Jayma Mays as his hormonally challenged pregnant wife, Grace, two of the nicest New Yorkers any visitor from another world could ever hope to land themselves with. Both Harris and Mays are so kid-friendly and welcoming that it’s hard not to warm to their mounting concern and Smurf loyalty. As always, the lead human character proves his/her worth when the chips are down, and rises to the occasion, proving to the little darlings watching that humanity and kindness to all creeds speaks volumes in any language.
Gurning Azaria who’s the spitting image of the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang puts on another daft accent and panto performance to become more animated that realistic, but is nevertheless always amusing to watch, if incomprehensible at times. Smaller children looked noticeably frightened of him on screen – especially in 3D with that nose, so there could be repeats of sleepless nights for kids across the land, mirroring the late Sixties/early Seventies, even though this wizard gets his comeuppance.
Naturally, there is a direct commercial angle to the whole film that cannot be ignored, with ‘spot the Sony product placement’ in virtually every shot – but at least it’s not Apple for once. The other aspect that isn’t really necessary is the 3D, although if you fork out for the ticket price, the overall result is better on the eyes than some recent offerings, and the shots use the technology to the best ability.
The Smurfs In 3D is join-the-dots, made-for-kids goofy blue magic that does nothing memorably new, but is guilty of putting a smile on your face, even after the Smurf-zing assault on the ears. If nothing else, it reinvents the franchise, and adds a little cool blue factor to the iconic figures, especially with Katy Perry being the voice behind Smurfette.