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The Smurfs

Starring Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays
Voices by Jonathan Winters, Katy Perry, Anton Yelchin, Fred Armisen, Alan Cumming, George Lopez, Sofia Vergara, and Hank Azaria
Screenplay by J. David Stem & David N. Weiss and Jay Scherick& David Ronn; Story by J. David Stem & David N. Weiss.
Based on the characters and works of Pierre “Peyo” Culliford
Directed by Raja Gosnell

Based on the few trailers and teevee ads I'd seen prior to screening The Smurfs, yours Cranky was truly concerned that those who adapted the original works and characters had forgotten that "The Smurfs" is a family friendly property. True, the substitution of the word "smurf" for any random verb or adjective gets tired quickly for adults, but substituting the "S" word for something on George Carlin's famous list of words you can't say (etc etc etc) is a stunningly awful idea. Despite the hints, said smurf-up happens only once, at the very end of the film, so we'll let it go. [If you bring little kidlets to see the film, tell 'em the missing word is "mess."] OK, on to the review . . .

IN SHORT: Take the kiddies if you got 'em. But . . .. [Rated PG for some mild rude humor and action. 100 minutes]

. . . if you're heading to see The Smurfs based upon some nostalgia for the teevee toons of your youth, you'll find yourself thinking one of two things: Either you'll be thinking "yeah, OK, but I could've waited six months for the DVD" or "I can't believe I forgot my weed." [That being written, weed is a waste of your time and money -- we write from experience -- but the stuff stinks to high heaven so, if you still want to get high as a kite before seeing The Smurfs, wait and stink up your own home. Or find a theater showing the film long after the little ones should be in bed. ]

It is the time of the Festival of the Blue Moon in the village of the Smurfs -- 99 blue creatures all "three apples high" (about seven or so inches to us). They are guided by Papa Smurf (Jonathan Winters) and are all about as sexless and male as you could get. Well, except for Smurfette (Katy Perry) whose unique origins will be briefly explained during this film. The festival is interrupted, so to speak, by yet another attack by the age old enemy of all things Smurf called Gargamel (Hank Azaria). A wizard with no magical ability whatsoever, Gargamel is obsessed with "extracting the essence of Smurf" to fuel his magical dreams, transforming him into a great wizard. Of course, on every front, Gargamel is a total loser. His only "friend," so to speak, is a cat named Azrael. The cat's job is to go into new places and situations first, just in case going into new places and situations means dying a sudden death. Gargamel's trademark line on such occasions is to yell "Are You Dead???"

Gargamel's attack and Papa Smurf's grab of an emergency bag of smurfberries -- their food source -- will lead to an escape through a magical portal which dumps six of our blue friends in the middle of New York. Not only must they find a way home, they also find themselves beholden to a pair of humans Patrick and Grace Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays).

This is where the "story meant to hold the parent's attention" kicks in: Patrick's boss is the demanding Odile (Sofia Vergara), owner of a cosmetics company called Anjelou. Patrick's job it is to design a new product line and ad campaign for the line -- he's just been promoted into said job from a gig as ad copyrighter and [the boss] has given him a whopping two days to come up with the whole deal. The last thing Patrick needs is a bunch of seven inch tall blue thingies running all around his apartment, especially given that his wife is expecting a, uh, thingie of the human kind..

We will credit the other said thingies: Clumsy Smurf (Anton Yelchin), whose genuine ineptness helps open the door between universes; Brainy Smurf (Fred Armisen), who insists on explaining everything; Grouchy Smurf (George Lopez), whose name says it all; and Scottish talking Gutsy (Alan Cumming) who wears a kilt that will answer an age old question. Two other newbie smurfs (Panicky Smurf and Crazy Smurf) don't do much.

There are a couple of very clever references to things that are blue in the human world that you should keep your eyes open for, not that you'll have trouble keeping your eyes open. A bit more thought to this aspect would have made the film a better sit for the parental units. But then, the film is really for your single digits. Those around us were squealing with delight.

We don't put dollar ratings on family films like this because they all are video fodder. Is The Smurfs going to be worth the extra bucks to lug the little ones? Absomurftively.

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