The Smurfs (PG)

Animation 102 July 29, 2011
By Nick Schager
Raja Gosnell recycles his Scooby-Doo films' CG-live-action hijinks and juvenile postmodern jokiness for The Smurfs, in which Papa Smurf (Jonathan Winters), Smurfette (Katy Perry), and their magical blue-skinned compatriots are inadvertently transported to Manhattan, with bulbous-nosed sorcerer Gargamel (Hank Azaria) and his pet cat Azrael in hot pursuit. This Enchanted-style fish-out-of-water scenario is mined for interminable product placement gags (Blue Man Group!) and dreary fantasy-meets-modernity scenarios (Gargamel gets Tasered by the NYPD!). It's done via a dim script that inundates conversations with the term smurf as a noun, adjective, and adverb, and then wink-wink addresses the silliness of the iconic characters' speech, and their personality-based names and signature "la la la-la la la" song. Gosnell directs as if every scene must be either a nauseating roller-coaster ride or a syrupy melodrama, resulting in a seesawing tone that's not stabilized by the presence of Neil Patrick Harris as a cosmetics company executive and expectant father forced to baby-sit the cheery computer-generated creatures. Amid loving hugs and embarrassing Guitar Hero performances with his new munchkin friends, Harris learns from Papa the value of family and parenthood. More than that mushiness, though, it's the possibility of this frantic film spawning sequels that truly inspires thoughts of smurficide.
Raja Gosnell Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, Sofia Vergara Peyo, J. David Stem, David N. Weiss Jordan Kerner Sony Pictures Columbia

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