Toddlers may be delighted with this cartoon-live action adaptation of the 1980s cult cartoon but their parents, who may remember the TV series, will probably be bored stiff. Nevertheless, on its opening weekend the magical blue creatures tied with “Cowboys and Aliens” as #1 at the box-office.
The plot centers on Patrick Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris) and his pregnant wife Grace (Jayma Mays) whose home is invaded by a small band of Smurfs who dive through a wormhole to escape the evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria) and his nasty cat Azrael (voiced by Frank Welker), winding up in New York City. Apprehensive about becoming a father, Patrick is an exasperated ad-exec trying to come up with a clever cosmetics campaign. Eventually, of course, the Winslows help the Smurfs get back to their village.
Under the director of Raja Gosnell, animated 3-D is put to good use. In the opening scene, Smurfs fly on storks and the camera follows their careening trajectory as they swoop out of the sky and dive deep into the dense forest, landing in enchanted Smurf Village with its mushroom-like houses. Later in the story, there’s an effective vortex into which swirling leaves disappear. Finally, Gargamel blasts energy from his wand into the audience, making tots squeal in delight!
Originally conceived by a Belgian comic-book artist named Peyo (Pierre Culliford’s pseudonym) in 1958, the Smurfs became a Saturday morning cartoon program during the 1980s. The Smurfs are archetypal characters, named for their personality – Gutsy (Alan Cumming), Grouchy (George Lopez), Clumsy (Anton Yelchin), Greedy (Kenan Thompson), Handy (Jeff Foxworthy(, Vanity (John Oliver), Jokey (Paul Reubens) etc. – except for Papa (Jonathan Winters) and Smurfette (Katy Perry), the only girl among 100 boys. Their language utilizes the word ‘smurf’ in myriad meanings decipherable within their context, occasionally including sexual innuendos that sail right over the kids’ heads.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Smurfs in 3-D” is a nostalgic, kid-friendly 5, despite an outrageous abundance of Sony product placements to catch the attention of accompanying adults.