Director: Raja Gosnell
Starring: Hank Azaira, Neil Patrick Harris, Brandon Gleeson, Jayma Mays, Katy Perry, Alan Cummings, Jonathan Winters
Written by: J. David Stern, David N. Weiss, Jay Scherick, David Ronn and Karey Kirkpatrick
Running Time: 105 mins
Release date: 31st July 2013
La. La. La la la la. Its a happy smurf-day to you. Oh brother. Yes those cute blue creatures are back after the first film made a mountain of money and it seemed that those creations who first appeared to take over the world in the 70s just won’t go away. So as a summer treat for all those little ones who love slapstick comedy and over moralizing time for more of the same (if you remember the first time. Not many people do. Funny that?)
Evil wizard Gargamel has become a huge hit as a magician and has found himself showing audiences in Paris. His powers, from the blueness of the Smurfs, is running out so he needs to capture Smurfette and get their secrets and so he can take over the world. So with the help of his Smurf-like creations, The Naughties, he kidnaps Smurfette. Papa Smurf is desperate to get Herr back and so with a rescue team and the aid of their human friend, Patrick, they head to France to confront Gargamel before Smurfette turns bad.
I know that I am not the target audience for this and I do appreciate that. In the same way I wasn’t the target audience for the Twilight films, so to review this, I have to see it through the eyes of a child. It does what it sets out to do, as do all these children films of late, it entertains and surprisingly it does it very well. Director Raja Gosnell has been making these kinds of movies for a while now, from Big Momma’s House to Scooby Doo, that he understands his audience. They are undemanding, they are vacuous, they are formulaic but for a child it’s probably as exciting to watch as I remember feeling when I saw The Jungle Book for the first time. Throws some bright colours at the screen, add some risky gags about bottoms and farting and a child is as happy as Larry.
You get the cute characters, each with their own personalities (even if you sometimes struggle to distinguish one from the other as they are so similar), you get the cringing father/son, families are special morals which are always overplayed and forced. You get the contrived plot devices that are needed to move this along and this does move at a cracking pace. I guess it has to as the gaping holes in the story will appear even bigger. You also get actors who are giving their heart and soul to the project, as if they are in some Shakespeare production. You also get Brandon Gleeson. What? THE Brandon Gleeson from The Guard and In Bruges? The very same.
Playing Neil Patrick Harris’s overbearing step father, he is as energetic as he has ever been and as you would expect from such a talented actor, he delivers the goods. Even when playing a duck (don’t ask). Hank Azaria, who is a great comic talent, is back as Gargamel, looking like a cross between The Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mike Batt. As comic villains go, he does a fine job and has some of the funnier lines, most of them are thrown away so if you do catch them, they will make you laugh.
Look, this isn’t high art and intellectually stimulating but as a piece of cinematic fluff that will keep the kids happy for a few hours, it does the trick. Even the 3D is well used as objects are flung at the screen. Its not as annoying as Alvin and the Chipmunks even if the constant puns in which every sentence must have the word Smurf in some form in it does have that same effect as running your finger nails down a chalk board. I confess, I did laugh at a few gags which is more than I can say about some films this year. Not a masterpiece but more fun than The Hangover Part III.