I took my son and his friend to see The Smurfs today, full dreading it. And despite some good things about it – there are some good things! – it is terrible in alot of ways. Here’s some random thoughts:
* I thought it was positive that Neil Patrick Harris plays a straight father-to-be in the film. I’d like to think the days are gone whereby gay actors can’t come out of the closet for fear of losing straight parts is over, but I don’t think that is yet the case. (I am no expert here.) Perhaps with more performances by actors like him, audiences can forget about the sexuality of the actors and focus on the character they are playing. That would be a good thing. NPH is one of the good things about the film.
* I like Tim Gunn alot, but I didn’t like him in this. I can’t say why: he’s not a good actor, and he is not playing himself exactly. It just felt off, as if he was trying to channel Stanley Tucci from The Devil Wears Prada and doing a poor job of it. Then again, I don’t watch much of him, so I could be totally off base here.
* One person who is channeling another character is Hank Azaria. He seems to be trying to be a male version of the Wicked Witch of the West. Indeed, the movie seems to lift the storyline from the Wizard of Oz, with The Portal acting as the Hurricane and New York City acting as The Emerald City. There’s references to flying eagles instead of flying monkeys, and…well, there is probably more, but I was not exactly watching it all that closely.
* Thinking about that on the way home, I realized: there seems to have been a number of gay references in this film. However, I am hardly the best person to make that call, so I did a search on the way home and found this: Gay.net – Smurfs are so Gay which references this: The Smurfs – Gay Movies For Gay People – UGO.com. And they just touch on some of the lines and references in the film. The makers of the film are being coy about it, but I think it’s too obvious not to be anything other than intentional. If anything, knowing that going in can make the film enjoyable for the adults, in that you can watch it from a different perspective.
* Surprisingly the actors in the film are good. It’s what makes it watchable. Hank Azaria is too much for me, but if you are five, I am sure he was perfect. NPH is charming as usual, and he takes his role seriously (no small things, that). The voice actors, in particular Katy Perry and Jonathan Winters, do their thing well and breath some life into their little blue CG bodies.
* I wish I could say I was pleasantly suprised by the film and that I liked it, but alot of the dialogue in the film is so hackneyed that it just grated on me. There’s too many bad sitcom cliches that stand out like a blue thumb. I thought the overuse of the word “smurf” word get to me, but it was lines like “we’re having a moment here” or “no Smurf left behind” or…well, there are tons of them. The thing was written by four screenwriters, and that is never a good sign. Yet there is good stuff, too. I guess of the four writers, some were good and some were hacks. Sadly the stuff by the hacks overcame the good dialogue and made it hard for me to watch.
* As usual, the 3D part is a rip off. There are some scenes at the beginning that use it well, but for the most part, it was irrelevant. I can see why Roger Ebert despises it. I do too.
* Is there lots of product placement? Ha, you’re kidding, right?
* The Smurfs is not the worst kids film I have ever seen: that honour still goes to the first Chipmunks movie. It represents all that is bad about Hollywood now, however, and if you can distract your kids from it long enough, it may be out of theatres before they know it.
* I’d like it to be a success just so NPH could get some better offers and we could see him in other films. Overall, though, if you can avoid seeing it, do so.