My tolerance for terrible movies has always been extremely high. In fact, in my near twenty-four years of life I can only remember one film that I started and didn’t finish (Postal). To me, the idea of creating a film, taking an idea and getting a team of people to work together cohesively to make that idea into reality, is a feat second-to-none and deserves at least some attention, even if said film sucks terribly. As Kevin Smith once said, “No one sets out to make a bad film,” so why not give everything the benefit of the doubt until you’ve actually viewed it?

Earlier this week I found myself in a predicament that occurs all too often in the life of someone living in a major city with a lot of time on his own, I realized I’ve seen literally everything in theaters currently that I can bring myself to spend money on. Most of them were seen as free screenings, but I can and will admit to also paying for many matinees of films that would outcast me from most circles of films. Some may say it’s a waste of time and/or money, but I see it as potential for coverage and a chance to learn more about the art of filmmaking (something I long to do myself in coming years).

So, with almost no options to choose from, I took a deep breath, found five dollars, and partook in a 2D screening of The Smurfs (I’m against 3D unless it involves gore and real 3D technology).

Going in, I didn’t expect much. Critics had destroyed it before it hit screens and news that Katy Perry’s Smurfette referenced “I Kissed A Girl” had pretty much killed all hope that this film would have anything to offer someone like me, but I gave in because it had performed well over the weekend and I find Hank Azaria (Gargamel) to be generally amusing.

Twenty minutes had passed before a smile or a smirk crossed my face, but I hadn’t been deterred. The opening was well done, CGI looked great, and there were signs of jokes for older fans (narrator smurf imparticular) that gave me hope the film would eventually cater to my taste. We meet the Smurfs, then Gargamel (who Azaria portrays almost as convincingly as the cartoon itself) and his cat Azrael, then a plot to capture the Smurfs leads to our blue friends abandoning their village and fleeing into the enchanted forrest. Once in the forrest, the villagers get separated when Clumsy Smurf takes a wrong turn and our main cast (Papa, Grouchy, Brainy, Gutsy, & Smurfette) decide to chase after him. They catch up to clumsy, but (of course) it happens just as a “blue moon” portal opens, transporting the Smurfs (and later Gargamamel and Azrael) to Central Park in New York City, New York (a convenient plot device if there ever was one).

As soon as our Smurfs realize they are far from home, the group must once again run from Gargamel and, in the process, lose Clumsy after he falls into a partially opened box being carried by Patrick Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris). This gives our little friends a reason to leave the park, see the city (a near-nauseating scene which involves a dozen voice-over jokes), and eventually make their way into the home (and heart) of Patrick and his girlfriend Grace (Jayma Mays). The process is film 101 to say the least, but this is a children’s film and such tactics are needed to keep young viewers on board. Remember: This is a film for children.

Turns out, “blue moon” portals don’t happen all the time, they’re actually quite rare (foreshadowing a message of individuality and uniqueness that radiates throughout the film). This gives us a plot (roughly 30 minutes into an 86 minute film) and we’re off with the Smurfs to find a way to reopen the portal while avoiding Gargamel and seeing as much of NYC as humanly, or should I say as smurfily, possible. Along the way we also get side stories about Patrick’s being unsure of parenthood and Smurfs doubting their abilities to be more than one dimensional, but it’s all background fodder to inspire kids to be different and love openly. Both good messages, both things I’ve heard at least 2492 times before.

As I sat in my chair and let the remaining 50 minutes grind my mind to a fine mush, I couldn’t help but realize I wasn’t hating anything on the screen. Yes, the Smurfs use the term “smurf” far too often and Yes, Neil Patrick Harris is underutilized to a near-criminal degree, but there isn’t a film for NPH fans nor adults who are aware what “smurf” really means. This is a children’s film and as such, it works on a level few do by not only being suitable for all ages, but also by being filled with enough pop culture references and adult-level wit to keep you comfortable numb throughout.

No one expected The Smurfs to be an Oscar-worthy film and guess what, it isn’t. Hell, if they hadn’t already announced two sequels I would say most would probably forget such a film ever in no time. The Smurfs is a simple movie for children that happens to use a nostalgic icon that few are truly nostalgic for to kickstart a franchise and entertain our world’s young minds with non-offensive content. Who can complain about that?

Take your smaller siblings, children, or your drug-loving friends. This is a movie for the young and the mindless. Don’t expect gold, or even silver, and you won’t be disappointed.

Written by: James Shotwell

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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  • Beauty

    I completely understand what he means when you quoted Kevin
    Smith and he is right no one is out there to make a bad movie. So like you I’m
    not expecting much of this movie. I’m really glad I ran into your review
    so I can have something real to relate with. I haven’t seen this movie but I
    was planning on renting it for my daughter. I have the Blockbuster Movie
    Pass so I try just to
    wait for the movies to come out on DVD. I don’t like to waste money on anything
    I know might now be good and well the Blockbuster Movie Pass allows me to
    stream on demands and get movies in the mail. I recommend it. Any ways, I’m
    getting off topic. The Smurfs seems like a movie that my daughter would
    actually really enjoy. I was told by many of my co-workers at DISH exactly what
    you said, that they say Smurf way to much and you don’t know if it is a good or
    bad way. I don’t even want my daughter to catch on to that. I hope she doesn’t.
    Well thanks very much for the review I hope she likes The Smurfs!