Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays
J. David Stem, David N. Weiss, Jay Scherick, David Ronn
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.
$35,611,637 on 3395 screens.
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Service
French DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
Mandarin Dolby 5.1
Cantonese Dolby 5.1
Thai Dolby 5.1
Korean Dolby 5.1
Runtime: 103 min.
Release Date: 12/2/2011
• 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
• “Smurfs Fantastic Adventure” Game
• Deleted/Extended Scenes
• “Comic Book to the Big Screen” Featurette
• “Smurf Speak” Featurette
• “Going Gargamel” Featurette
• “Happy Music Montage”
• Progression Reels
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The Smurfs [Blu-Ray] (2011)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 11, 2019)
Although the Smurfs came into existence back in the 1950s, 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 makes 2011’s The Smurfs - the characters’ big-budget, big-screen debut - as 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 as well.
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 as Gargamel and delivers a surprisingly amusing performance, so 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, as he’s the one who gives us all the “what the Smurf is this nonsense?” moments and lets us view a skeptical viewpoint 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 Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B+
The Smurfs appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie came with a terrific presentation.
Sharpness became a strength. Any softness was negligible at best, as the image consistently offered tight, concise visuals. I saw no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and the movie lacked both edge haloes and print flaws.
Due to its fantasy characters, Smurfs arrived with an occasionally bubbly palette. The colors were very strong, with dynamic hues when appropriate.
Blacks were fine, while shadows seemed smooth and concise. Across the board, this turned into a satisfying image.
While not exceptional, the DTS-HD MA 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. This was a solid “B+” mix.
Bow did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD edition? Audio showed a bit more pep and range, but picture became the more obvious improvement.
The DVD tended to be soft and bland, whereas the Blu-ray was precise, vivid and lively. This turned into a huge visual upgrade over the DVD.
The Blu-ray includes the same extras as the DVD as well as a few exclusives, and 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,
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.
Exclusive to the Blu-ray, we find five Deleted/Extended Scenes. These fill a total of seven minutes, 41 seconds and mainly focus on additional material with Gargamel. Because Hank Azaria becomes arguably the film’s biggest strength, his presence makes these segments amusing,
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. “Screen” offers a good, tight overview of the choices and work executed here.
Under Going Gargamel, we get a nine-minute, 57-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.
Not found on the DVD, Smurf Speak: Meet the Cast lasts nine minutes, 26 seconds and offers notes from Gosnell, Kerner, and actors Katy Perry, Anton Yelchin, Jonathan Winters, George Lopez, Fred Armisen and Alan Cumming.
As expected, “Speak” examines cast and performances. It tends to be fluffy but it adds some decent information.
Unique to the Blu-ray, The Smurfs Fantastic Adventure Game offers a simple “button-mashing” experience. It’s clunky, annoying and not a smidgen of fun.
An outtake collection comes to us via Blue-pers. It lasts a mere 25 seconds and offers some animated “goofs” from the Smurfs. It’s cute but too short to have much impact.
Another addition to the Blu-ray, five Progression Reels last a total of nine minutes, 14 seconds. Accompanied by commentary from an unnamed narrator, the “Reels” show various aspects of the animation processes. It’s a good overview.
Finally, we get a Happy Music Montage. This runs one minute, 49 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, and Zookeeper. These also appear under Previews along with clips for Surf’s Up, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and Open Season. No trailer for Smurfs appears here.
One of summer 2011’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 Blu-ray offers excellent visuals along with very good audio and a nice array of supplements. We get a strong release for a mildly compelling movie.
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of SMURFS