I would rather have nailed my eyelids to a desk than see this film with my six-and-four-year-old sons, and so contrived plans to head up to a stateley home park or go for a bike ride. But then the skies darkened and the clouds glowered and so the cinema became the only option for respite from bickering, pestering children.
We were going to see The Smurfs Movie.
Men and women of my generation will not only remember these irritating blue echoes from our past, they will have had nightmares about them. The Smurf Song by Father Abrahams is one of the all-time hell-on-earth records ever released. And thankfully, the Smurfs’ presence in our lives was mercifully short.
But now they’re back. Some sadistic spod in movie-land has decided to dig the little feckers up from the bottom of the toy box where they were long forgotten and make a whole feature film out of them.
As I said: nail – meet desk, via eyelid.
OK, now brace yourselves, because the following sentence is not one I thought I would ever be writing: The Smurfs is actually very good.
No, actually, it was great. Not ‘great’ great, as in Wall-E, or The Incredibles, or Toy Story, or Monsters Inc. But great in a very enjoyable way to spend a rainy afternoon kind of great.
The story is basic and doesn’t really matter: The Smurfs live a life of harmonic bliss in Smurfland. They are imbued with an essence that means they can do lots of ker-azy things like bounce when they fall. Their neighbour – an evil wizard and his snickering ginger tomcat – wants this essence, but these Smurfs are slippery customers and he never manages to catch them. In his continuous endeavours to claim his prize, the wizard chases half a dozen Smurfs to a cave with an underground waterfall. This happens on a night when the moon is blue, which causes a vortex to appear in the waterfall, which leads to another place – New York.
The Smurfs escape, the wizard goes after them, the Smurfs are protected by an irritatingly smug soon-to-be-parents couple. There are lots of chases yada yada. The End.
But bear with me. The film obviously has appeal for little ‘uns – my boys thought it was superb and want to see it again (Nah! No chance. Not at £30 for the three of us) – but it has that knowing humour, both slapstick and intelligent, that animated films are so good at these days.
The star of the show by a million miles is the sorcerer Gargamel, played out of his robes by Hank Azaria (best known as the voice of Chief Wiggum and Comic Book Guy in The Simpsons). The running joke of him being a medieval wizard transported to modern day New York never lets you down (he sees a tramp pushing a trolley: ‘Ah-haaa, a fellow sorcerer,’ he says. Or something like that) but the best lines are reserved for his interaction with his companion cat. He very much reminded me of Dr Doofenschmirtz, the evil professor in the cartoon Phineas and Ferb.
Of course there’s schmaltz of the ‘Life Lessons Learned’ variety, but hey, these people are Americans. They can’t help themselves. Fortuntately, though, it doesn’t get in the way of a good romp which both me and my lads thoroughly enjoyed.
• By the way, the movie is available in both 2D and 3D. Don’t waste your money on the 3D version. There are a couple of scenes where you think ‘Wow’, but they are few and far between.