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This article was first published 12 years ago  » Movies » Review: The Smurfs is cliched and magicless

Review: The Smurfs is cliched and magicless

By Ankur Pathak
July 29, 2011 10:08 IST
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A still from The SmurfsAnkur Pathak feels that The Smurfs has a pitifully unimaginative storyline. Post YOUR review here!

When Belgian comic artist Pierre Culliford, famously known as Peyo created comic strips comprising of little blue creatures, his mediocre life instantly took a glamorous makeover, with his patent creations -- The Smurfs garnering immense popularity in the early 80's. First with the comic franchise and then with the hit NBC show.

Many decades later, a mammoth studio takes over the Smurfs' fading reign, converts it into a 3D live action cum CGI chaos, which essentially is a cunningly designed corporate decision. The little kids -- for whom the humour is boringly uninspiring -- would sure-fire drag their parents for a watch. And the parents – probably faithful followers themselves at one point, would only longingly oblige. 

Such intellectually scrawny is the humour induced in the film, at instances; it gets so bad that it is good. (When one of the smurf is hurt, another yells, "That's a big blue bruise you just got")

We are introduced to the Smurf village in a frantically paced opening sequence going with the voiceover, "Where even feeling blue is a good thing". The names of the alike-looking oddballs are derived from their personality traits. So predictably, they have covered almost every persona humanly conceivable (Brainy Smurf, Greedy Smurf, Gutsy Smuf, Clumsy Smurf, Lazy Smurf, you get it). There's even a Passive-Aggressive smurf, who sadly, isn't in the picture.  Apparently, at later stages of their lives, when the personality disposition would seem too juvenile a name to call, they are called by their profession. So again you have a Chef Smurf, Painter Smurf, Poet Smurf.

In their seemingly idealistic environment, Papa Smurf (Jonatthan Winters, voice) sort of governs, with his ninety-nine male Smurfs and one female Smurfette (Katy Perry, voice). How that Smurfs-up the functioning of their universe, is a complexity let us not dwell on.
This brings us to the point where these diminutive beings conversationally replace every noun, verb with 'Smurf' language. The dialogue writers mostly aimed at camouflaging the obscenities, for awfully unfunny moments like, "Oh My Smurf", "Where the Smurf are we", "I Smurf You".

Back to story, the Smurf village begins to unsettle when evil wizard -- Gargamel (Hank Azaria, live-cast) armed with his cat that CGI-cally covers-up for him when he goofs-up, decides to attain enormous magical force, by sucking up the abilities from the Smurfs (who never seem to use it for their own good). After penetrating their small-town, an elaborate chase-sequence
ensues where a fistful of Smurfs, including Papa Smurf, sneak out of a watery hole, and BAM! land into present-day Manhattan, justified by some 'once-a-blue-moon' logic.

Later, when happily exiting, Papa Smurf remarks, "I've learnt quite from your village". He goes on to incorporate the Statue of Liberty at Smurf town.

Here, the Smurfs end up at Neil Patrick Harris' place, where he is awaiting fatherhood, although with great anxiety. On the other hand is his caricature of a boss - the irresistible Latin actress Sofia Vergera (Modern Family), who appears sheepish and heavily under-utilised. Add to the films' misery, Patrick Harris is shown taking life-altering inspiring lessons from Papa Smurf -- who occasionally doesn't mind sharing an advice or two. Here the film absolutely affirms its pitiful unimaginative storyline.

Awkwardly, it gets stuck in that tricky space of drama and comedy, when it is actually advertised as live-action and fantasy, and the painful agony is -- neither of the mentioned four is, even after segregating, mildly amusing.

For one, the live-action never really plausibly blends well, and it is just too uncomfortable to see a bunch of bluish fragile living things conversing normally, dodging cats and scoring windows and trees, as Grace -- Pattrick's wife addresses everybody strictly with two expressions. First shock then curved eyebrows showing sympathy.

The visibly animated cat is funnier than Hank Azaria's evil wizard and his stupidly timed comic lines. He yells, "Oh baby, Daddy's home" when secretively discovering some random laboratory. Earlier he mistook a portable toilet for one. Even the kids would grimace here.

The animation is strictly mediocre, with The Smurfs' resembling a cross-breed between Avatar and Megamind.

If all this wasn't suicidal enough for The Smurfs, the voice-cast is shockingly timid. If Katy Perry forces over-the-top hackneyed girliness into Smurfette, Jonatthan Winter's Papa Smurf is a tired and formulaic old-man.

With consistently bad enactments, voice-cast or live-action, The Smurfs leaves little for it to be recommended. Not only it is Smurfingly unimaginative, it is wholly clichéd and magicless, at times even dumb. Look out for a culminating conversation between Neil Patrick and his boss, where he explains her significance of 'blue moon'. You'd go colourless.

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Ankur Pathak in Mumbai