'Smurfs' will satisfy old, new fans

The Smurfs

The Smurfs

JANE STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:06 AM ET

For the uninitiated, the thought of spending of an hour and 45 minutes with those cuddly little blue creatures known as The Smurfs in 3D on the big screen in a live action/animated family comedy might not exactly appeal.

But as someone who wasn't on the planet when Belgian artist Pierre "Peyo" Culliford first created them for a comic book in the '50s -- and who was too old (read: cool) in the '80s to be watching the Hanna-Barbera cartoon version, I can tell you the end result is pretty cute.

Mind you, the filmmakers could have trimmed off about 15 minutes of it.

However, Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) and Jayma Mays (Glee) are cute as the New York City couple -- he's a cosmetics company marketing executive, she's a craft furniture artist -- expecting their first child when their lives are invaded by six equally cute Smurfs.

There's Papa Smurf (voiced by comic legend Jonathan Winters), Smurfette (pop star Katy Perry), Clumsy Smurf (Anton Yelchin), Brain Smurf (SNL's Fred Armisen), Gutsy Smurf (Alan Cumming of The Good Wife) and Grouchy Smurf (George Lopez) who are all on the run from the evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria) and his sidekick cat Azrael (half real, half animated when it comes to the kitty's facial expressions) after escaping Smurf village via a magical portal that lands them in The Big Apple.

That's where the cute ends.

Azaria has uglied himself up -- think Abe Vigoda in a monk's robe -- in his scene-stealing role as Gargamel, with big ears, nose, eyebrows, buck teeth, and a receding hairline as he runs around New York City trying to catch the smurfs in order to take "their essence" to make his spells more powerful.

He has some of the movie's best lines and is great at slapstick, particularly during a memorable scene set in famed toy store FAO Schwarz and to his credit, director Raja Gosnell (Home Alone 3, Scooby-Doo and Scooby-Doo 2, Big Momma's House, Beverly Hills Chihuahua) makes great use of that and other New York City landmarks including Belvedere Castle in Central Park and Rockefeller Plaza's rooftop garden.

Unfortunately, Gargamel hooks up temporarily with Harris' equally evil boss Odile (Sophia Vergera of Modern Family), who becomes fascinated with his "magic" ability to make her mother look younger in a weakly written sidebar, while others making appearances in smaller roles include Project Runway's Tim Gunn, who plays Odile's right-hand man.

For the most part, it's a pretty simple plot fleshed out by appealing performances by Harris and Mays, nifty voice work by Winters, Perry and Cumming in particular and Azaria -- who is a gifted comic. The animated smurfs are also easy on the eyes even if the 3D hardly seems necessary.

And for those of you who were around for either the comic book or the Saturday morning cartoon, your nostalgia for one or the other or both will go rewarded in this big screen version of The Smurfs.

(This film rated G)


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