The Smurf Movie – Why I Will Probably See It Despite My Better Judgment

The Smurfs rolls out July 29th, and if the trailers are any indication, the smurfs themselves will most likely be my least favorite part of the movie.

Our summer couldn’t be complete without another failure of a popular kid’s cartoon turned into a big screen live action movie. This time the wizards in Hollywood picked the 1980’s cartoon classic, the Smurf’s. The film will be released in 3D and is supposed to be family friendly fun at its best. The idea alone just makes me cringe. Let’s see what you think…

So, if you didn’t carry a blue Smurf’s lunchbox to school, here’s a little history lesson in animated awesomeness, 80’s style. The Smurfs actually started out as Les Schtroumpfs when they were created by Belgian comic artist Peyo in the late 50’s. They latter made their way into the American Saturday morning cartoon scene in 1981 thanks to Hanna-Barbera. It wasn’t long before America was awash in blue. They taught thousands of TV-raised kids in the 80’s, all about adventure, what was right, the importance of being honest and other lessons.

The Smurfs are far from the first of my beloved childhood cartoons to be ‘revived.’

  • There have been two Alvin and the Chipmunks, with a third coming out in December
  • Two Garfields
  • Yogi the Bear
  • The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle

Ask anyone old enough to have seen the original versions and they will tell you that the adaptations are just simply bad. Not one of these movies received above a 27% on Rotten Tomatoes. In fact, all 6 of those cartoons added together only rate an 87%.

So why do live action adaptations continue to be made? That should be obvious.

The films may be awful to watch, but they still make money. As an example, reviewers gave the 2007, Alvin and the Chipmunks movie terrible reviews. It was made for $60 million and ended up grossing $361 million worldwide. It was also the seventh bestselling DVD of 2008, making another $101 million. The Smurfs movie could fall into the same category. It may be awful to see and reviewers may hate it, but it will probably make money anyway.

The live action adaptation starring Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria and Jayma Mays is the first of three proposed by Sony Pictures, and has had a number of issues from its inception. The release date has already been pushed back not once but three times from December 17, 2010 to March 25, 2011 and last but not least, July 29, 2010.

Another main problem I have with the film is that most of it doesn’t even take place in the wonderful medieval enchanted cartoon forest where the original television series was set. The main characters and villain are quickly and magically whisked off to New York City, surprise surprise, where the film takes on a ‘modern twist.’ Sony is saying the film is supposed to take after the cartoon hit, Who Framed Rodger Rabbit. Exactly. Because it’s still 1988, right?

One reviewer put it well, Diep Tran, “The main thing I’m confused about is what type of audience they are aiming for. I’m pretty sure the current generations have never even heard of Smurfs, let alone would drag their parents to a movie where the main characters are blue and walk around half naked in white pants.” ( The television series we knew was known for its cute innocent little blue characters who were always trying to keep themselves safe from the evil, albeit equally ignorant wizard, Gargamel. When you infuse potty talk and pop culture into the mix, the original charm is lost.

Also watching the trailer I cringe at every use of the word smurf. The trailer shares with us these gems: Oh My Smurf! Smurfabunga! You smurffed with the wrong girl. Come on…oh sorry, I mean smurf on.

So, knowing full well it will be panned by critiques, will have cringe worthy uses of the word smurf and will probably ruin a whole swath of childhood memories, why am I going to see it

The short answer is Neil Patrick Harris.

The long answer is Neil Patrick Harris and the rest of the cast.

If anyone can make this movie interesting, redeem its many unavoidable faults and make the price of the ticket worth it, it’s NPH. So why do I think he can do it when so many others have failed before him? What does he have that Jason Lee, Breckin Meyer, Tom Cavanagh and Jason Alexandre don’t? A unicorn, of course:

Using an internet meme as an argument may seem like a cop out, but really it’s just another example that he can do anything, and that we’ll accept it. Harris is openly gay but carries the role of the second best womanizer on TV in How I met your mother (the honor of first place goes to Charlie Sheen’s character on 2.5 men) with unquestionable veracity. From a child doctor, to a singing evil genius Harris approaches any role he portrays in just the right way. With just the right kind of humor.

A supporting cast of Glee‘s Jayma Mays, and Modern Family‘s Sofia Vergara, Gargamel, seems like a pair that can play along with the whimsy necessitated by this project. Big enough names that you’re like, “oh yeah…her,” but not so big as to eclipse NPH.  And then there’s Hank Azaria…who we’ve loved (The Birdgcage, The Cradel Will Rock) and hated (Year One, Godzilla) over the years. I don’t know if he can pull of Gargamel when The Smurfs rolls out July 29th, but if anyone in Hollywood could, it’s him.

This guest post is by Edwin, you can follow him on Twitter: @TheCelebutaunt.

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