When the Smurfs
happy village is at
tacked by the evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria
) and his cat Azrael (“voiced” by Frank Welker
), a group of them led by Papa Smurf (Jonathan Winters
) escape to present-day New York, where they’re reluctantly taken in by harried advertising man Patrick Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris
), whose pregnant wife Grace (Jayma Mays
) is far more enthusiastic about accommodating them. Gargamel and Azrael follow, though, and to escape back home the tiny guests must prepare a special magic ceremony to be conducted to coincide with the blue moon. Juxtaposed with all their shenanigans in the Big Apple (including an excursion to FAO Schwartz, where—naturally—they’re mistaken for toys) are Winslow’s efforts to complete an important campaign for cosmetics mogul Odile (Sofia Vergara
) and his nervousness about his readiness to become a father. Of course the Smurfs will help him with both.
You'll also hear Katy Perry
(as Smurfette), Alan Cumming, Fred Armisen, George Lopez
and Anton Yelchin
(as Clumsy Smurf). The script tosses in enough jokes—often self-referential and mildly self-deprecatory—aimed over the heads of the younger kids at their parents to make it more than tolerable to them as well.
But what really makes “The Smurfs” more entertaining than most kiddie films is Hank Azaria
’s wildly over-the-top performance, marked by some broad but funny slapstick bits. He’s abetted by the CGI-enhanced Azrael, easily the most amusingly expressive feline on screen in a long while, and, like so many cats, smarter than his master.
It’s a pity that director Raja Gosnell
and the writers felt compelled to end the movie with one of those big, effects-laden confrontations—pitting Gargamel against a Smurf army—that frankly dissipates the charm. It takes the picture into “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” territory, much to its detriment. Another drawback is the almost-inevitable application of 3D which, as usual, adds little to the total effect.