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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Raja Gosnell
Cast:
Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, Sofía Vergara, Jonathan Winters, Alan Cumming, Katy Perry, Fred Armisen, Tim Gunn, George Lopez
Writing Credits:
Peyo (characters), J. David Stem (and story), David N. Weiss (and story), Jay Scherick, David Ronn

Tagline:
Smurf happens.

Synopsis:
When the evil wizard Gargamel chases the tiny blue Smurfs out of their village, they tumble from their magical world and into ours -- in fact, smack dab in the middle of Central Park. Just three apples high and stuck in the Big Apple, the Smurfs must find a way to get back to their village before Gargamel tracks them down.

Box Office:
Budget
$110 million.
Opening Weekend
$35.611 million on 3395 screens.
Domestic Gross
$141.671 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Service Dolby Digital 2.0
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
Spanish

Runtime: 103 min.
Price: $30.99
Release Date: 12/2/2011

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Raja Gosnell
• Audio Commentary with Producer Jordan Kerner, Writers J. David Stem, David N. Weiss, Jay Scherick and David Ronn and VFX Supervisor Richard Hoover
• “Find the Smurfs” Game
• “Comic Book to the Big Screen” Featurette
• “Going Gargamel” Featurette
• “Blue-pers”
• “Happy Music Montage”
• Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Smurfs (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 22, 2011)

Although the Smurfs came into existence back in the 1950s, I believe they made no real dent in the US until they got their own animated series in the early 1980s. I was a teen at the time, so that left me outside of their natural demographic.

This means that 2011’s The Smurfs - the characters’ big-budget, big-screen debut - is possibly my first extended experience with the franchise. We go to a magical hidden location called Smurf Village, in which the tiny blue residents live nearly ideal existences. The only snarl? An evil wizard named Gargamel (Hank Azaria), a nasty dude who wants to capture the Smurfs and extract their essences to fuel his magic.

The catch? He doesn’t know where to find Smurf Village. However, when Clumsy Smurf (voiced by Anton Yelchin) hunts for Smurf Berries, Gargamel spies him and the little fella inadvertently leads the baddie back to the secret location.

This unleashes chaos in Smurf Village, of course, and the inhabitants flee for their lives. Clumsy accidentally takes the wrong path, and this leads him into a vortex that takes him to a terrible, horrible, fearful location: New York City.

A few other Smurfs chase after him, so they wind up in the Big Apple as well: Papa Smurf (Jonathan Winters), Smurfette (Katy Perry), Gutsy (Alan Cumming), Brainy (Fred Armisen) and Grouchy (George Lopez). Before long, Gargamel comes through the vortex, too.

The portal closes after this, so the Smurfs need to evade Gargamel and stay alive while they await its opening. Clumsy almost literally lands in the lap of ad executive Patrick Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris) so the others need to rescue him. This leads to a shocked encounter between the little blue creatures and Winslow and his wife Grace (Jayma Mays). Eventually they come to terms with each other, and the Winslows help the Smurfs keep away from Gargamel and attempt to get home.

If you want to know what to expect from Smurfs, you need to look at another effort from director Raja Gosnell: 2002’s Scooby-Doo. Like other modern adaptations of this sort such as Alvin and the Chipmunks, Smurfs and Scooby-Doo tried to give us family entertainment with enough of a 21st century update to make them tolerable to a theoretically more sophisticated audience.

That means “viewers over the age of 7” in this case. The natural core for Smurfs definitely skews young, so a movie adaptation needs to attempt to appeal to a broader crowd. It does with its self-awareness and “fish out of water” tale. Had it shot solely for the littlest ones, it would’ve kept the action in Smurf Village and been as “G”-rated as could be.

Instead, the “PG” Smurfs is a bit more daring – but just a bit. We get some violence and innuendo as well as frequent uses of “smurf” to essentially stand in for a famous profane word that starts with “F”, but I can’t see anything that stretches boundaries and makes the movie remotely unsuitable for kids.

Will any of this amuse adults, however? Maybe. I admit that I went into Smurfs with a pretty strong sense of dread. As I mentioned, I never watched the show and the film’s trailers made it look awful. It seemed like a crass, cynical to milk yet another kiddie franchise.

And it kinda sorta is a crass, cynical flick – I don’t think I’ve seen another movie that packs more product placement per square foot of celluloid – but that doesn’t make it unenjoyable. There’s just enough self-awareness and ironic detachment to keep it from becoming too precious, and Azaria’s turn as Gargamel helps a whole bunch. The actors became the best aspect of Gosnell’s Scooby-Doo, and that proves true here as well. Azaria camps it up good as Gargamel and delivers a surprisingly amusing performance; he does a lot to redeem the project.

Harris also manages to add a wee bit of edge to a fairly simpy character. Patrick acts as the audience’s proxy; he’s the one who gives us all the “what the Smurf is this nonsense?” moments and lets us encounter a skeptical counterpoint to all the la-la-la antics of the Smurfs. Harris gets stuck with more than a few sappy sequences, but at least he brings some taut wit to proceedings that sorely need them.

Smurfs works best in its first half, as its second segment tends to drag. The thinness of the plot becomes more evident, and the presence of scenes that exist just for random nonsense becomes more obvious. Does the segment in which Patrick bonds with the Smurfs over a video game have any purpose other than to a) be cute and b) offer more product placement? Not that I can discern. Smurfs is the kind of story that would work best around 90 minutes, so its 103-minute running time feels padded, especially during the often plodding second half.

Still, I have to admit that even with its flaws – and we find many of those - Smurfs provides reasonable entertainment. At no point does it really threaten to impress or become anything special, but it’s watchable and occasionally semi-amusing. Given my low expectations for the project, that’s high praise.


The DVD Grades: Picture C-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

The Smurfs appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie came with an erratic, unexceptional transfer.

Sharpness became one of the up and down elements. Close-ups looked fine, and occasional wide shots seemed decent. However, much of the flick came across as a bit soft and indistinct; these concerns were never extreme, but a lot of the movie appeared somewhat mushy.

Sporadic examples of jaggies and shimmering materialized as well as some artifacting, and the image could be a bit blocky. The opening sequence looked the worst, as its movement became extremely rough. The presentation improved after that but still showed some of the same artifacts along the way. I saw light edge haloes at times, but source flaws remained absent; no specks, marks or other concerns materialized.

Due to its fantasy characters, Smurfs arrived with an occasionally bubbly palette. The colors were fairly good; they lacked terrific vivacity, but they showed pretty peppy reproduction. Blacks were fine, while shadows seemed reasonably concise. Really, the issues with definition and artifacts created the biggest concerns and made this a disappointing image.

While not exceptional, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Smurfs suited the material. The soundscape offered enough action-oriented sequences to add pep to the package. These used the five channels well and meshed together in a positive manner. I couldn’t cite any especially memorable segments, but the track had enough good activity and integration to succeed.

Audio quality seemed fine. Speech consistently remained natural and distinctive, without edginess or other problems. Music displayed nice range and clarity, while effects showed solid definition and accuracy. Note that the track was mastered at a rather low level, so I needed to crank the volume higher than usual. When I did so, however, it showed pretty good reproduction. This was a solid “B+” mix.

The DVD brings us a reasonable roster of extras. We find two audio commentaries, the first of which comes from director Raja Gosnell. He offers a running, screen-specific discussion of how he came onto the project, story/character areas, cast and performances, effects and animation, sets and locations, and a few other elements.

Gosnell touches on all the appropriate topics and do so with pretty good humor and energy. As expected, he does engage in a fair amount of happy talk, but those tendencies don’t overwhelm the chat. Instead, Gosnell manages to give us a nice overview of the production in this fairly peppy and informative commentary.

For the second commentary, we hear from producer Jordan Kerner, writers J. David Stem, David N. Weiss, Jay Scherick and David Ronn and VFX supervisor Richard Hoover. All six sit together for this running, screen-specific look at bringing the franchise to the big screen, story, character and script topics, sets and locations, cast and performances, production design and various effects, music and additional areas.

Because Gosnell offered a pretty thorough chat, this commentary doesn’t leave a lot of stones to unturn. Nonetheless, it manages to add a decent level of insight, mainly due to the extra perspectives on display. The participants mesh together well and make this a likable and fairly interesting piece.

With the ”Find the Smurfs” Game, we go through three rounds of action, In each one, we watch Smurfs scurry about the screen and hide; when they stop, we have to find a specific Smurf. It gets more challenging as it goes, but it’s not particularly fun.

After this, we learn about how the Smurfs went from Comic Book to the Big Screen. In the eight-minute, 15-second piece, we hear from Kerner, Hoover, Gosnell, CG character designer Allen Battino, senior animation director Troy Saliba, SPI digital FX supervisor Daniel Kramer, CG supervisor Karl Herbst, production designer Bill Boes, director of photography Phil Meheux, and actor Neil Patrick Harris. We get notes about the design of the Smurfs for the movie as well as the methods used to bring them to life. We get a good, tight overview of the choices and work executed here.

Under Going Gargamel, we get a 10-minute, one-second piece that features Gosnell, Harris, Scherick, Ronn, Stem, Weiss, animal trainer Larry Madrid and actors Jayma Mays and Hank Azaria. We learn about the Gargamel character’s adaptation for the big screen, Azaria’s performance, and other related elements. Like “Screen”, this is a brisk, engaging take on the topics that offers useful material.

An outtake collection comes to us via Blue-pers. It lasts a mere 26 seconds and offers some animated “goofs” from the Smurfs. It’s cute but too short to have much impact.

Finally, we get a Happy Music Montage. This runs one minute, 51 second and delivers a mix of movie shots accompanied by a song that sounds like it’s from Katy Perry but isn’t. Nothing interesting shows up here.

The disc opens with ads for Arthur Christmas, The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Zookeeper. These also appear under Previews along with clips for Surf’s Up and Open Season. No trailer for Smurfs appears here.

One of the summer’s moderate hits, The Smurfs delivers more entertainment than I anticipated. No, it’s not a classic – or even genuinely good, to be honest – but it keeps us reasonably amused much of the time. The DVD provides very good audio and some interesting supplements but picture quality is mediocre to weak. That’s the disc’s biggest problem and one that makes the release lackluster.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main