Heidi’s been out of town all week – she’s in New Orleans for GayRomLit – which has left Anna and me to fend for ourselves. We’re doing pretty well even though I only got 2 of the 6 days I requested off from work. We hit the elementary school Family Fun Night last night and tonight we made a date of it. We stopped at Orange Leaf where we split a frozen yogurt concoction that she cooked up. We hit the Walgreens for theater candy and then showed up for the 7:40 showing of The Smurfs which was playing at the mall budget theater where admission is only $1.50 each. However, since it was the weekend, ticket prices were a whole 2 dollars each.
I wasn’t sure what to think about the movie version of The Smurfs. One the one hand, it was inevitable. The mining of the pop culture from my childhood is pretty much at full throttle and who in their right mind could resist an opportunity to put computer animated Smurfs on the big screen? On the other hand, it seemed like no good could possibly come of this. Surely it would be an endeavor that resorted to sight gags and fart jokes in a pretty crummy attempt to prop up what is just another animated feature. Surely it would fall in with a hundred other bad computer-animated movies that I’ve had the displeasure of enduring just because I have a kid.
Imagine my surprise when The Smurfs, while certainly not an Academy Award Winner, was not nearly as bad as I was expecting and is another in the lengthening list of movies under the heading “better than it had a right to be.”
The plot was pretty simplistic. The Smurfs, as everyone knows, are pursued relentlessly by bumbling sorcerer Gargamel and his cat Azreal. On the eve of the Festival of the Blue Moon, Gargamel finds the Smurf Village he has been looking for thanks to the idiocy of Clumsy Smurf and the Smurfs take off running. A mysterious portal appears for reasons unknown to anyone that transports a set of the best known Smurfs – Papa, Brainy, Grouchy, Smurfette, Clumsy – and the previously unknown Gutsy Smurf to New York City. Naturally, Gargamel and Azreal follow them through the portal and the fish-out-of-water set up is complete.
The Smurfs are well animated and cute and the story with the human characters (played by Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays – better known as Emma from Glee) is charming and surprisingly well written for a kids movie that could have just as easily relied on brand recognition and the “if we film it, they will come” mentality that seems to be so pervasive in kids’ movies these days. The only part of the movie that was a little bit grating was the massive overacting on the part of Hank Azaria who played Gargamel. The reason Gargamel is so hot on capturing the Smurfs is because their essence will apparently make him the most powerful wizard in the world. Well, clearly Gargamel must be half Skeksis because every single time he said the word “essence” I was immediately transported into The Dark Crystal. Chamberlain may be banished, but Gargamel is on the job now.
I will fully admit that my perception of the movie was likely colored by my date. Anna laughed at it more genuinely than she has laughed at a movie in a while. Yes, a Smurf falls in the toilet. They use the term “smurf” when the mean the word “fart.” There’s a great sequence with Neil Patrick Harris playing the Guitar Hero: Aerosmith version of “Walk This Way” and yes, the Smurfs make up lyrics to it. And although he overacted to the hilt, you cannot deny that Azaria played Gargamel well from a physical comedy standpoint. I worried that the movie would be too “kiddish” for Anna – probably the first time I’ve ever worried about that when taking her to a movie. But it was right up her alley. True to her usual form, at just over the half way mark, she crawled up on my lap and sat there through the rest of the movie. She’s getting a little too tall for that to be comfortable, but I really didn’t care.
And the best part of the night? The whole thing cost us under 10 bucks. How often can you go get frozen yogurt, candy AND see a movie for less than 10 dollars?
Apparently, there are more Smurf movies coming. By the time the last one comes out, it WILL be too kiddish for Anna. But it’s okay because at least we were able to enjoy the first one. Easily better than either of the Chipmunks movies, it was 4 bucks well spent.