A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although there's nothing overtly upsetting in The Smurfs, you can expect some potty-type humor and some cartoonishly violent scenes involving bad guy Gargamel and his cat Azrael in this adaptation of the beloved childhood cartoon. But no one is ever seriously hurt, and the Smurfs always triumph. The word "smurf" is used often as a substitute for other words, including, on occasion, curse words -- i.e. "smurf off!" or "smurf me." Many brands are featured in the movie (usually if they have the word "blue" in them), as well as electronics and toy companies. While kids might pick up a few messages about positive teamwork and self-confidence, chances are they'll probably just laugh at the goofy pratfalls and jokes.
What's the story?
In the enchanted Smurf Village, THE SMURFS, a group of 100 little blue, gnome-like creatures, live in a utopian bliss, preparing for a Blue Moon Festival. Meanwhile, evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria) and his cat, Azrael, plot to find and destroy the Smurfs' hidden home. After Clumsy Smurf (voiced by Anton Yelchin) accidentally leads Gargamel to the village, the powerful Blue Moon creates a vortex that sucks in Clumsy, Papa (Jonathan Winters), Gutsy (Alan Cumming), Grouchy (George Lopez), Brainy (Fred Armisen), and Smurfette (Katy Perry), with Gargamel and Azrael tumbling in after them. They land in New York City's Central Park, where cosmetics executive Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) is throwing a party for his overbearing boss (Sofia Vergara). After Clumsy falls into one of Patrick's boxes, the other Smurfs follow him home and reveal themselves to Patrick and his wife, Grace (Jayma Mays). While the Smurfs attempt to find a way to conjure themselves back home, Gargamel tries to track them down and steal their powerful, youth-providing essence.
Is it any good?
Despite a few laughs, this adaptation of one of the most popular Saturday-morning cartoons in U.S. history is only going to appeal to families with Smurf-obsessed kids. Even Harris, who has become one of those dependable movie savers in a string of comedies, and Azaria, who's a gifted, family-friendly comedian, can't save director Raja Gosnell's live-action/CGI hybrid from disappointing nostalgia-seeking grown-ups and all but the youngest of kids.
On the smurfy side, there are a few decent one-liners here, and physical comedy is hard to resist sometimes. The Smurfs joke about their personality-named brothers left back in the village (nobody misses "Passive-Aggressive Smurf"), or look shocked when Patrick snaps an apparent expletive that only involves variations of the word "smurf." And, yes, Gargamel stomping around Manhattan with his faithful devilish cat has an inherent comedic appeal, but it's not enough to sustain a paper-thin plot. As Grouchy appropriately says at the end of the Smurfs' urban adventure, "I didn't hate it as much as I thought I would. But I still hated it."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the appeal of remaking old cartoons like The Smurfs into movies. Do you think the goal is to share the cartoons with a new generation or to appeal to grown-ups who remember the cartoons from their own youth?
What are the movie's messages? What do the characters learn over the course of the film?
If you've seen the old TV show, how does the movie compare? Do the characters seem the same?
- In theaters: July 29, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: December 2, 2011
- Cast: Hank Azaria, Jayma Mays, Neil Patrick Harris
- Director: Raja Gosnell
- Studio: Columbia Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some mild rude humor and action
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.