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MPAA Rating
Credits
Genre
Comedy, Kids, Animation
Cast
Hank Azaria as Gargamel; Neil Patrick Harris as Patrick Winslow; Jayma Mays as Grace Winslow; Sofía Vergara as Odile; the voices of Jonathan Winters as Papa; Alan Cumming as Gutsy; Katy Perry as Smurfette; Anton Yelchin as Clumsy; Fred Armisen as Brainy; George Lopez as Grouchy
Director
Raja Gosnell (Beverly Hills Chihuahua; Yours, Mine & Ours; Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed; Scooby-Doo; Big Momma's House)
Distributor
Sony Pictures
In Theaters
July 29, 2011
On Video
December 2, 2011
Reviewer
Paul Asay
The Smurfs

The Smurfs

I just have to write it: It's not easy being blue.

Oh, sure, the life of a Smurf might seem easy at first, maybe even idyllic. You could even enjoy it for a while. You'd find a nice mushroom, take up a trade based on your Smurf name (mine would be "Reviewer Smurf"), submit to the Smurfing community's iron-clad collectivism, carry out the genteel directives of its unquestioned leader (Papa Smurf) and sing the same happy song day after day after day. It's a little like North Korea … at least as told by the country's public relations officials.

But alas, as often is the case in secretive socialist states, there's trouble brewing in the Smurfers' paradise. For on the outskirts of the realm lives Gargamel, an evil wizard with an almost equally evil cat. He hates Smurfs and will do whatever he can to make life miserable down there amongst the mushrooms.

Good thing he has such a hard time tracking down Smurf Village. 'Cause if he did, you never know what sort of havoc that would cause in the People's Democratic Republic of Smurfdom—what sort of horror might be—

What!? Clumsy Smurf led Gargamel right to the village? Smurfs are running for their lives? Oh, and what's this? A few of the Smurfs are running for their lives in the wrong direction and getting sucked into a mysterious magical vortex?

Well, that does put a damper on things. Thanks to Clumsy Smurf's, er, clumsiness, he, Papa and some of Papa's loyal Smurf children—Brainy, Gutsy, Grouchy and Smurfette (who's adopted)—are stuck in New York City without so much as fare for a cab. And to make matters that much worse, Gargamel and his fiendish feline are hot on their diminutive heels.

If that's not enough to make anyone feel a little blue, I'm not sure what is.

Positive Elements

Lots of folks say they hate the Smurfs. (Even me.) But, really, who can feel antipathy for long toward a small blue race that's so nice and friendly and accepting? They all appreciate one another's skills and personality traits (though Smurfette does admit that Passive-Aggressive Smurf got on her nerves a bit). They really do form a pretty nice community, where similarities and differences are both appreciated and celebrated. If our churches and workplaces and communities were a little more, um, Smurfy, many of them might work a little better, don't you think?

'Course, Clumsy isn't feeling the love quite as much. Oh, he's loved as much as anyone and tolerated more than most. But when push comes to shove, Clumsy tends to quite literally push and shove folks into the injury ward. So once a handful of Smurfs (including Clumsy) land in NYC, Papa suggests that he stay behind while they go exploring, you know, to keep out of trouble.

But in the end, Clumsy winds up being the hero—proving that just because you're given a horribly embarrassing nickname doesn't mean you have to live up to it.

Meanwhile, the Smurfs settle down for a time with Patrick and Grace Winslow, a nice human couple with a baby on the way. Patrick is a harried ad exec, and he at first considers the Smurfs to be a nuisance. And then, when Clumsy accidentally sends the wrong ad copy (which finds its way onto digital billboards all over town), Patrick's pretty sure the little blue guys just got him fired. But they also teach him something about enjoying the moment—to not get so buried in work that he forgets the fact that he has a lovely wife and a beautiful baby on the way and he's being miraculously visited by some tiny, kindhearted people-like beings. Those things don't happen every day, so you might as well enjoy them when they come around.

Spiritual Content

For the Smurfs, magic (brewed up with the help of fabulous Smurf vegetation) is a way of life. We see Papa Smurf conjure a vision of the future—which proves not to be entirely reliable. To get home, the Smurfs break into a used bookstore, read a spell book (actually the comic book history of the Smurfs), chant an incantation and cast a spell on the moon, turning it blue.

Gargamel is also shoulder-deep in magic, and he's desperate to capture the Smurfs because they embody some sort of "essence" that will make him the most powerful magician in the world. To prove it, he puts a dab of essence into a ring which he uses to turn a older woman young again. he dribbles more into a magic wand which he fires willy-nilly at his pesky Smurf assailants. And he straps Papa Smurf to some sort of magical/mechanical contraption that will squeeze out all his blueness. (We're unsure whether the procedure will actually kill Papa, but there's some concern that it might.)

Also: Gargamel sometimes exclaims "by the gods" or "thank the gods," and the idea that he might be "worshipped" for his magic clearly appeals to him. His cat, Azrael, is named after the Angel of Death according to Islamic and some Hebrew lore.

Smurfs are reputed to be "good luck," according to an online entry Patrick reads. When Patrick's boss tells him he has two days to create a new ad campaign, Patrick comforts himself by saying, "God only needed six days for the whole world, right?" "Fail, and maybe you can work for Him," his boss responds.

Sexual Content

Stray scenes make rather strange sexual allusions as they connect racier (sometimes R-rated) entertainments to the new Smurfdom. During the credits, we see Azrael licking Gargamel's face. "I wish I could quit you," Gargamel says, referencing the gay-themed film Brokeback Mountain. Smurfette, voiced by pop star Katy Perry, references one of her songs (which is lesbian-themed): "I kissed a Smurf and I liked it." She also finds a new dress in a toy store that looks like the one Marilyn Monroe wore in The Seven Year Itch. Standing above a heating vent, she lets the dress billow up, mimicking the iconic scene from the film. The kilt-wearing Gutsy Smurf then joins her on the vent.

Vanity Smurf—speaking in an effeminate voice—primps in the mirror. Grouchy Smurf falls in love with a large representation of a green M&M—so much so that he makes his own when he gets back home. As the woman grows younger by way of Gargamel's magic, we see her (tightly covered) breasts grow and firm. One Smurf thanks another for holding his hand. "That's not my hand," the Smurf says.

Violent Content

Maybe it's not their predicaments that make Smurfs blue. Maybe it's all the bruises.

Clumsy Smurf does most of his damage by accident, smacking his fellows in the face, crushing their works of art and nearly running them over. He's told he won't be able to participate in the Smurfs' annual Blue Moon Festival because of the likelihood of fractures. But others are more deliberate in their violence: Gargamel gets a face full of log (and a body full of it too) when he invades Smurf Village, and he's pelted by apples and nuts and sharp objects (including apples laced with needles) in a confrontation in New York. The Smurfs vainly try to drop a bowling ball on his head. And when they first meet Patrick, they cause him to beat himself with an umbrella and then hogtie him. "I was about to make haggis with your innards," says Gutsy.

The Smurfs get slammed in a subway car door, bruised and beaten in a toy store, and sucked up by leaf blowers. Gargamel, rescued from prison by a league of flies, smashes into a basketball hoop a few times before getting snagged on some razor wire. He also runs headlong into a stopped cab and, for good measure, gets hit by a bus. Some of his own magic backfires, sending him flying over a few city blocks. (He doesn't appear to be seriously injured in any of these mishaps, unless you count a broken nose that he quickly slaps back into place.) Azrael, who also gets sucked into a leaf blower, shot into a toy display, and dropped and hurled around the city, loses a chunk of his ear to a metal cage.

Gargamel makes a laundry list of things he'll need to take out a new ally's enemies—including poisons and weapons and "spikes to mount their heads on." A child kicks Patrick in the shin.

Crude or Profane Language

The Smurfs movie really brings a whole new meaning to the phrase blue language. The word of choice? Smurf. Characters say "oh my smurf," "where the smurf are we?" "up the smurfing creek without a paddle," "smurf me!" "I'll be smurfed!" and "son of a smurf." When Patrick, exasperated with the whole Smurf language, says, "Smurfity smurf, smurf, smurf!" Gutsy exclaims, "There's no call for that kind of language, laddie."

It seems like overkill to mention here that the movie's website is smurfhappens.com. But I'll do it anyway.

Oh, and we also hear one "d‑‑n." Name-calling includes "idiot," "hag," "lunatic" and "moron."

Drug and Alcohol Content

Gargamel mentions that he drank some Dom Pérignon at lunch, and he and his dining companions all have what appear to be champagne glasses at the table.

Other Negative Elements

Grouchy Smurf lands in a tub of blue M&M's, which he mistakes for "Smurf droppings." He then proceeds to eat them. Clumsy falls into a toilet. We watch as Azrael painfully hacks up a hairball. When Gargamel sees that it's made up of Smurfette's hair, he says it's "silky strands of joy" mixed with cat vomit. The pair originally try to create a lab inside a portable toilet, then quickly leave, with Gargamel wondering what "horrible magic" took place there. Gargamel urinates in a bucket at a swanky restaurant. One Smurf tells another that he smells like "the business end of a sheep" and exhorts everyone to "take life by the grapes."

We hear songs like Aerosmith's "Walk This Way" and AC/DC's "Back in Black." Gutsy Smurf buys underwear that says "I (heart) N.Y." on the seat. When Patrick asks Papa Smurf whether he'd like some coffee, Papa says, "Is a Smurf's butt blue?"

Papa, who's seen a terrible vision of the Smurfs' future, lies about it, telling his flock that "It'll all turn out just fine."

Conclusion

Credit The Smurfs for being self-aware. The film takes all the things that made some dislike the original Smurfs cartoon—the repetitive lexicon, the song, the oddity that there's apparently only one female Smurf in all of Smurfdom—and mercilessly lampoons them. But then, in the tattered ruins of the silly innocence that once was the heart of it all, gives us a host of new reasons to dislike Smurfs.

The movie is rated PG, and I suppose technically there's nothing in it that would push the rating higher. And yet, as I document all the foul weirdness here, or weird foulness—the violence, the innuendo, the bathroom humor—it seems worse somehow.

Listen, I admit I've never been a big fan of Smurfs, not even in my less-grouchy childhood. But I do know what the Smurfs used to represent: an innocent Saturday-morning respite from the grit and grime the world threw us, even back then. Now, with this new movie, the word Smurf doesn't mean innocence anymore. It doesn't even just mean little blue people in funny white hats. It means something that's unprintable on our website—in fact, several somethings that are unprintable. Quite the trick, that. A trick worthy of Gargamel.

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