What the Smurf happened?

Like “Scooby-Doo,” “Alvin and the Chipmunks” and “Yogi Bear,” “The Smurfs” is the latest cartoon franchise to receive the live action/CGI treatment. And like its predecessors, the film has fallen victim to a weak storyline, bad puns and wasted comic acting, despite the best efforts put forth by Neil Patrick Harris and Hank Azaria.

The film is based on a comic book series by Peyo, which also inspired the 1980s animated series.

In case you managed to avoid the Smurfs all your life, they are a troop of impossibly happy, little blue men (and one blue woman) who are aptly named after their personality traits.

Brainy is an intellectual know-it-all (voiced by Fred Armisen). Gusty (who wasn’t in the original comic) is full of courage (voiced by Alan Cumming). Grouchy is a grumpy and sulky fellow (voiced by George Lopez). You get the picture. These one-dimensional characters are an exaggerated version of their names, and it’s disappointing that at the end of the film none of them found any emotional growth.

Papa Smurf (voiced by Jonathan Winters) is a grandfatherly figure who watches over the entire Smurf village, a secluded and peaceful place where the Smurfs live in giant mushroom homes.

After Clumsy (voiced by Anton Yelchin) disobeys the orders of Papa and ventures beyond the village’s border, the bumbling sorcerer Gargamel (Hank Azaria), along with his cat, chase the Smurfs out of their village.

It’s here a half of dozen Smurfs are sucked through a wormhole and transported to an unfamiliar world — New York City.

While working to reopen the portal back to home, the Smurfs are constantly fending off the attacks from Gargamel who wants to capture their “essence” (the less you think about it, the better).

The Smurfs happen across Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and Grace Winslow (Jayma Mays), a young New York couple who agree to help them.

Unfortunately, not even a strong voice cast could buoy this film.

The jokes are predictable, or at times a bit raunchy. There’s a scene re-enacting Marilyn Monroe’s skirt lifting performance in “The Seven Year Itch” and one too many fart jokes for this reviewer.

While Hank Azaria manages to flush out a few laughs with his physical comedy, these moments are few and far in between.

It was also frightening to watch Neil Patrick Harris’ storyline primarily revolve around if he can come up with an ad campaign that would successfully sell cosmetics to women.

What’s even more frightening is that a sequel has already been announced.

Anyone under the age of 5 will mostly likely enjoy this comedic movie. For adults, it’s an excuse to sit two hours in an air-conditioned movie theater. Two stars.

Directed by Raja Gosnell. 103 minutes.


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