By Satyen K. Bordoloi
Film: "The Smurfs";
Cast: Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria, Jayme Mays;
Voiceovers: Jonathan Winters, Anton Yelchin, Fred Armisen;
Director: Raja Gosnell;
There are films which smack in the beginning, often even before the crisis is established, and make you predict the end. As an experienced viewer, you are aware this is the case with 95 percent films and that it is not the destination, but the film's journey that truly matters. The journey through Smurf land is filled with clean, well humoured moments that will charm families.
Trying to escape the stupidly evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria) six little, blue, happy creatures called The Smurfs are transported from their magical land to New York. They land in the home of marketing executive Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris). With the wizard close on their heels, the Smurfs have to find a way to get back home, and quick.
One of the strongest elements that a film with a predictable story needs to have is some unbelievably adorable characters. This film has a 'Smurf' full of these cuteness.
The usual suspects, the six Smurfs are obviously cute. Yet, the funniest one of the lot is the evil, laughing kitty. Never after the cute cat in Shrek, has there been such an adorable feline in filmdom. Pair him with a dumb-witted master who is supposed to be a wizard, and you have a laugh riot blowing.
The sub-plots and twists in the tale are expected and though there is a very high overdose of 'smurfy' terms, its delicate handling by director Raja Gosness ensures this does not get to you.
Though a film that stays literally true to the one created by the writer of Smurfs, Peyo, (like in a popular animated series of the '80s and a film) would have been wonderful, this one - a mix of live action and animation - works as well.
There have been a decent number of films with the mix of live action and animation in recent times like "Alvin and the Chipmunks", "Garfield", and "Hop", all three directed by one man - Tim Hill. Yet, this is the best of the lot and a welcome addition to a sub-genre that saw its peak in the '50s but seems to have lost its sheen in recent times despite advances in CGI.
"The Smurfs" is a fun film meant purely as a family entertainer with the cuteness of a "Home Alone" and "Babe" where everything is gimmicky and beyond proportions. And just like in these two films, the director knows his limits and 'where' and 'why' and most importantly, 'how' not to cross over those limits.