LoveFilm made me watch The Smurfs. A bold claim but I’ll explain. I have three lists on my LoveFilm, a “Priority” list of all the films I want to watch, a “Random” list of films I’m only generally interested in and a “Girlfriend” list, of films that both me and my girlfriend want to watch for when we are together. The Smurfs were on my “Random” list. I’m not completely free from blame, I did add The Smurfs to my LoveFilm list but I added it to the “Random” one because that list also had over 300 other films on there too. Nevertheless, somebody at LoveFilm thought it’d be a great idea to send me the The Smurfs and I was stuck, on a random Saturday morning, deciding to watch a kids film… alone.
I’ve got nothing against kids films. Some can be amazing. Any Disney film before (and including) The Lion King, anything by Pixar and a handful of others. It is just that I wasn’t really that a big a fan of The Smurfs in the first place. They used to be on before I went to school and I used to watch them while I had my breakfast but I wasn’t a huge, fanatic fan like I had been with the Ghostbusters or Turtles. I stand by the fact that I will give any a film a go though, regardless of genre, director, actor or even intended audience, because you never know.
The Smurfs, for those that don’t know, are a small, mythical group of creatures that are blue and magical. They are named after their predominant personality or character trait. The gang we follow from their magical village into the real world are Papa Smurf, Brainy, Gutsy, Grouchy, Smurfette (the only female in the whole village but I’m not getting into that) and our hero, Clumsy. This gang of Smurfs are chased into the real world by Hank Azaria’s evil wizard Gargamel. The Smurfs trying to get home while surviving in the real world is the main gist of the story.
What makes kids film entertaining and successful is how well they appeal to the whole audience. Parents are going to have to sit through some of these films, especially if they are at the cinema, and the best of these get some jokes in there for the adults too. I don’t want to sit through anything that is going to be too cutesy or sugary and unfortunately, for the first twenty minutes or so, this film was. I felt stupid watching a film about little blue people constantly singing. It seemed to be aimed at a young audience, not even a wide range of children.
The film did improve when The Smurfs got to the real world and met their main, human companion in Neil Patrick Harris. The best part of the films from my point of view were the moments where NPH’s character got constantly frustrated by the antics of The Smurfs, for example their singing or their constant optimism. I think this appealed to me the most because it was mirroring my feelings exactly. The other main human is Hank Azaria’s evil wizard and to his credit, he throws himself into the film, full effort, slapstick and ridiculous humour too. He got some good moments, usually based around his misunderstanding of the real world and his slapstick, but a lot of his actions were aimed at the lowest possible level too.
The story is pretty average and predictable. It romps along, with some good set pieces (for example The Smurfs causing chaos in a toy store) and the dramatic, action packed finale is done very well, even though this is quite standard too. It isn’t doing anything clever or new except for bringing well-known cartoon characters to life very effectively.
Overall, I know I’m watching a kids film and that I have to expect humour that is going to be sweet, cuddly and aimed a little low but the standard has been raised. There are plenty of examples of good kids films that can be watched, comfortably, by an adult without feeling like they are watching something far too young for them. Pixar has raised the bar, The Smurfs don’t quite reach it.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)