Obnoxious blue imps do for children’s entertainment what lead paint does for children’s toys
Call your Congressman and demand that Central Park be federally protected from Hollywood.
This cherished New York institution was already overrun by Jim Carrey and a gaggle of pooping seabirds in this summer’s “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” and now it’s being invaded by obnoxious blue imps in “The Smurfs,” a film that does for children’s entertainment what lead paint does for children’s toys.
A big-screen regurgitation of the diminutive characters who have been around since the 1950s — but are best known for their 1980s Saturday morning cartoon — “The Smurfs” wants to relaunch the franchise to a new generation of kiddies while ironically deconstructing the little blue bastards for nostalgic Gen Y-ers.
The result is neither fish nor fowl, but instead a poopy cerulean diaper: “The Smurfs” is too moronic and cringe-worthy for adults — bring on the toilet jokes and the soon-to-be-dated cultural refernces! — and even the kids at the screening I attended seemed mostly bored, except when Hank Azaria’s evil wizard Gargamel would fall into things.
There are a few mildly amusing moments involving the ongoing abuse of Gargamel’s cat Azrael, an almost entirely CG creation, but I wouldn’t want to be a parent stuck explaining to the kids why it’s not OK to throw Fluffy at the wall.
The plot, such as it is, involves Gargamel chasing a handful of Smurfs through a vortex that takes them all to New York City, and before long, Smurfs Papa (Jonathan Winters), Clumsy (Anton Yelchin), Grouchy (George Lopez), Brainy (Fred Armisen), Gutsy (Alan Cumming), and Smurfette (Katy Perry) are all crashing at the Manhattan apartment of marketing guy Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and his wife Grace (Jayma Mays of “Glee”).
If anyone deserves pity here — apart from the luckless parents who get dragged to this thing by their offspring — it’s Harris and Mays, who are not only forced to recite dopey and unfunny dialogue, but they’re also forced to do so opposite a bunch of tennis balls that would later be replaced by animated Smurfs.
The animation itself isn’t bad, as far as these things go, but the voice acting ranges from the adequate (Winters, Yelchin) to the irritating (Perry and especially Lopez).
Poor Tim Gunn, so droll and dignified on “Project Runway,” camps it up miserably as the assistant to cosmetics exec Sofia Vergara. You’d think that after years of kissing up to Heidi Klum he could do this sort of thing in his sleep, but he goes all extra-prissy, resorting in the kind of limp-wrist overdrive that you usually get from clueless straight actors.
In Richard Linklater’s landmark indie “Slacker,” one character comments that the “Smurfs” TV show was designed to get kids used to seeing blue people so they wouldn’t freak out when Vishnu returned.
One imagines the Hindu deity taking one look at this movie and saying, “Uh, yeah, thanks, but I’m good.”