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The Smurfs 3D(2011)
When the evil wizard Gargamel chases the tiny blue Smurfs out of their village, they tumble from their magical world and into ours -- in fact, smack dab in the middle of Central Park. Just three apples high and stuck in the Big Apple, the Smurfs must find a way to get back to their village before Gargamel tracks them down.
For more about The Smurfs 3D and the The Smurfs 3D Blu-ray release, see the The Smurfs 3D Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on November 24, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Raja Gosnell
Starring: Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, Sofía Vergara, Liz Smith, Joan Rivers
» See full cast & crew
The Smurfs 3D Blu-ray Review
Reference 3D visuals help make a fun movie even more entertaining.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, November 24, 2011
Oh. My. Smurf.
As is the case with most of these sorts of movies that reanimate, so to speak, cherished old children's material for the 21st century, The Smurfs has both "big revenue" and "critical failure" written over it. It's a movie that seems destined to be a hit with the kids and a miss with everyone else. It's the perfect storm of preconceived notions, notions that dictate that it certainly can't be any good in the eyes of grownups, "good" in this case meaning "entertaining." On the flip side, the kids probably can't wait; after all, what is there to dislike about mythical, colorful characters sucked into the big city and doing battle against a devious wizard and his loyal feline companion? Shoot, much the same was thought of Alvin and the Chipmunks, and look how that one turned out (hint: not bad at all). So it's with those preconceived notions in tow that everyone goes into the movie. It's already got tons of baggage, even before the little blue guys (and gal) even appear on the screen. But Director Raja Gosnell (Beverly Hills Chihuahua) is out to not only satisfy the kids' cravings for wholesome animated/live action hybrid adventure, but also to assuage the doubts of the adults in his audience, to still their rolling eyes and to sneakily roll their baggage away. He succeeds. Granted, The Smurfs is a formula movie through and through; it's predictable almost to a fault, but Gosnell has packed the movie with so much charm, honest wit, nicely developed human and Smurf characters, and a real sense of comedic adventure that not only is it watchable, it's flat-out entertaining. It nicely conceals its flaws through its approachability and genuineness; it doesn't remove them, but the whole is certainly greater than the individual pieces, particularly those pieces to which many turned up their noses before even giving the movie a chance.
They are beings but three apples tall who live beyond a medieval village, mythical creatures from somewhere in Belgium that are, really, very real. They're Smurfs, little blue humanoids who live and work in a small community made mostly of mushrooms and other natural materials. They are every one of them boys, except for Smurfette (voiced by Katy Perry), and are named for their single most defining attribute, such as Clumsy (voiced by Anton Yelchin), Brainy (voiced by Fred Armisen), Gutsy (voiced by Alan Cumming), and Grouchy (voiced by Grouchy). There's also proud Papa Smurf (voiced by Jonathan Winters), who is, what else, an elder father figure who oversees the lives of his fellow Smurfs. After a particularly disturbing vision, Papa Smurf attempts to gather together the Smurfs to sort out what he's seen and what it all means, but there's trouble. Clumsy has stumbled out of his magical forcefield-protected little haven and run into the Smurfs' archenemies Gargamel (Hank Azaria) and his loyal feline companion, Azrael. Unfortunately, Clumsy leads the villains right into the middle of his village. Most Smurfs escape, but Clumsy heads in the wrong direction. His goodhearted friends Smurfette, Papa Smurf, Brainy, Gutsy, and Grouchy attempt to rescue him from his own clumsiness, but it's too late. They're faced with the greatest dilemma in the history of Smurf-dom: become captives of the evil Gargamel, or travel through a portal that will take them who knows where. They choose the portal and wind up in New York City, which is, to them, a completely alien environment. There, they meet a young couple, Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and Grace (Jayma Mays), that takes them in even if their lives were already topsy-turvy: Grace is pregnant, and Patrick is up to his eyeballs with work. With Gargamel hot on the Smurfs' trail and using New York's own resources and Smurf DNA to create a magic potion that will make him all-powerful, the Smurfs -- with their new human friends -- must defeat their arch nemesis and open the portal to get back home, a portal which, sadly, can only open once in a blue moon.
The undeniable fact of the matter is that The Smurfs is a formula movie through and through. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, nor is it, in this case, a movie-killer. The movie never strays from exactly where some top-secret studio formula says it should go, and the end result is a picture with little real imagination and, daresay, even, purpose. The Smurfs nevertheless succeeds in spite of its adherence to predictable formula. It crafts its own heart and soul, plays with a steady cadence, and wiggles its way into the heart, even if the laughs and adventure both stick to the comfortable confines of family-friendly cinematic norm. The movie is bright and cheery -- even its villain is infinitely likable -- and goes so far over the top that it comes back down full-circle-like into an even keel with a charming and very pleasant sort of way about it. It's delectable but ultra-cheesy, fun and wholesome and satisfying in spite of its readily-evident shortcomings. It almost defies logic; the movie should be as bad as it sounds, as terrible as instinct says it will be, or as miserable as that "baggage" claims. But darn it all if it's not just simply likable. It's alive with that invisible, indescribable little thing called "movie magic." There's no real rhyme or reason to it, but the picture beats the odds and proves to be a down-to-earth, honest, heartfelt, and almost always entertaining little adventure for the kids, the kids at heart, and the kid who's become lost in the complexities of adulthood but who may be pulled back to his or her youth by the magic of whimsical, sweet, and satisfying motion picture delights.
The one area where there is no ambiguity is in The Smurfs technical prowess. This is nothing short of an amazing visual accomplishment. The seamlessness with which the animated characters have been created and the ease with which they interact with their real-world companions and the real-world environments in which much of the movie takes place is truly a sight to behold. The Smurfs couldn't look any more real for a 2011 movie; their shape and volume couldn't be more apparent (even in 2D), their hairs any less intricate, their eyes any less bold and revealing into who they are deep down inside. The animators have done the incredible, creating seamlessly believable digital characters that almost perfectly interact with one another and real live actors. It's been done before, and it will be done again even better than it has been here, but there's maybe only less than a handful of movies out there right now that can boast of this level of on-screen digital excellence. Even Gargamel's cat is often so lifelike -- in its movements, in the way its fur flows, in the way its eyes seem to define a living, intelligent being -- that it's often difficult to tell when it's real or when it's digital. The Smurfs is worth watching if for no other reason than to marvel at its technical superiority; the old adage holds true that says whatever's put in is what will come out, and there's certainly been plenty of know-how, man hours, and love poured into The Smurfs, and the results definitely show.
Rounding the movie into form is a down-to-earth, likable, and well-performing human cast. Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays are strong as the film's requisite human couple-who-interacts-with-the-adorable-little-digital-characters. They play along with the schtick, seemingly not bothered that their characters are relatively one-dimensional, just going with the flow and doing what's required of them to keep the movie chugging along. Both handle the film's more tender scenes well, with Harris giving just the right amount of credence to a heart-to-heart (or spleen-to-spleen?) conversation with Papa Smurf on the importance of family. Even then the movie winks and nods its way through the scene, playing it a little bit like it's expected of a movie of this sort, but also playing it somewhat straight because the message is important, if not redundant. But Harris, Mays, and friends are absolutely dwarfed by Hank Azaria's effort as the sinister wizard Gargamel. The performance is outstanding from top to bottom. Azaria carries the movie on his character's humped back, turning in one of the most deviously playful kid-centric villain performances in quite some time. He's a joy to watch as his character relishes every opportunity to cinematically appear through a fog, for example, recalling something out of an old black and white Universal Horror picture from a bygone era. The character and the performance both are so over-the-top that, like the movie as a whole, Gargamel just works despite the zaniness -- ridiculousness, even -- that's so evident throughout.
The Smurfs 3D Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Smurfs dazzled in 2D, and the 3D release is equally spectacular. Sony's Blu-ray 3D presentation delivers the best of both worlds, this transfer retaining all the same visual wonders that made the 2D image so great, while adding on a seamless third dimension that makes a viewing of The Smurfs complete. Indeed, even in 3D, this transfer retains the same level of detail, the same vibrant colors, and the same awe-inspiring clarity as found on the 2D release. The blending of the digital and live-action worlds continues to dazzle; whether the smallest textures on the Smurfs' CG hats and faces, their complexly-rendered mushroom abodes, the intricate little touches on a stuffed M&Ms character, or the fine lines and stitches in Gargamel's evil and well-worn cloak, the transfer simply never misses a beat. Cityscapes dazzle in bright daylight and the dead of night alike with perfect attention to detail, unbeatable sharpness, and striking clarity. Black levels are perfect, never crushing out detail, remaining inky and captivating and never going the least bit gray. Colors, well, the colors in The Smurfs are perfect. There might not be a more colorful and vibrant but also natural and balanced palette as the one found in this film. It's a dazzling display that doesn't appear to have lost even a hint of vibrancy in the 3D transfer. No doubt, The Smurfs is one awesome looking title, but the added 3D elements elevate this to practically legendary status.
Indeed, The Smurfs jumps to the head of the class as one of the finest and most seamless Blu-ray 3D transfers on the market. Sony's transfer finds that sought-after but rarely-achieved balance between seamless natural depth and eye-popping 3D delights. Even before the movie itself begins, the transfer shows its value; the Sony Pictures Animation logo is lighted from behind so that the word "animation" casts a shadow, a shadow that in 3D seems to literally drop out of the screen. It's a wondrous effect, but it's by no means the highlight of the disc. This image yields seamless and breathtaking natural depth throughout. A few jaunts through the "wormhole" tunnel prove to be an exhilarating roller coaster-like experience. Cityscape shots are delightful and so realistic in 3D that the transfer practically drops the viewer into the middle of several New York locations. A few shots that look down Times Square and other streets are impressive, but perhaps the image's finest example of raw, perceptible depth comes in chapter four. Before Azrael hacks up a hairball, the image shows him and Gargamel sitting on a very long park bench that stretches, and stretches, and stretches some more way back into the screen. The visual is stunning to say the least, oh, and this happens at night. No messy, crushing, scene-destroying 3D blacks in this one. The transfer also delivers a few nice and natural effects that appear to pop out of the screen. Smurf close-ups see their noses poke through the barrier that separates the movie from reality. Gargamel's attack on the Smurf village early in the film features a flying log that briefly seems to come through the screen. A stunning "reverse" 3D effect sees leaves and debris seem to fly past the viewer's head and into the screen as the Smurfs hang on to avoid being pulled into the portal at the beginning of the film. The final nighttime battle between Gargamel and the Smurfs features more than its fair share of snazzy 3D visuals. To call this one "tremendous" might be an understatement. This is what 3D should be, and once again it's Sony delivering the goods.
The Smurfs 3D Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Smurfs' DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack is pitch-perfect, and it's pretty much everything a high-energy soundtrack for a 2011 children's movie should be. It's boundlessly energetic but also impeccably smooth and perfectly crystal-clear. It's a dazzling display of sonic delights, if only for the seamlessness of the entire experience. Everything in the track -- music, dialogue, sound effects -- are infinitely rich, playing with superb spacing and a natural and immersive presence that easily fills the soundstage with every little nuance and each great audible element alike. Music is precise and audibly transparent; its presentation is one of those ones which seem to see the speakers melt away in favor of something that just has to be real. Score enjoys a solid surround presence that greatly aids, but never dominates, the material. Rock tunes enjoy high energy output but not at the expense of clarity and precision; spacing remains strong, and all comers in the musical category enjoy just the right low end element to provide a full bodied and realistic experience. Sound effects are likewise presented without hiccup; they seamlessly maneuver around the stage or emanate from a precise location. The track creates a perfectly believable sonic atmosphere, whether in the Smurfs' mythical grove or in the hustle and bustle of New York City. Ambience comes form all directions, but it comes naturally, as one would expect of it in the various environments, whether the idyllic sounds of serene nature or the din of busy city streets. Everything comes together in wonderful harmony, no matter how strong or light, no matter how prevalent or minor a sound or musical note may be. Rounded out by flawless dialogue reproduction, Sony's lossless soundtrack for The Smurfs is above reproach.
The Smurfs 3D Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This Blu-ray 3D release of The Smurfs contains almost all of the supplements found on the 2D-only Blu-ray disc. The primary missing feature is the Smurf-O-Vision Second Screen Experience iPod/iPad/iPhone movie compliment piece. DVD and UV copies are included, but the Holiday special is not.
The Smurfs 3D Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Smurfs is just an enjoyable and very well-made little movie. Despite following formula and brining nothing new to the table, the movie just works because it never really takes itself seriously. It's delightfully playful and easy to watch. It exudes a fun, catchy vibe, even through mountains of cliché and endless predictability. The special effects really are quite special (there wouldn't be a movie otherwise), Heitor Pereira's score is catchy and breezy, and the live action performances are fun, with special emphasis on Hank Azaria's brilliant portrayal of Gargamel, who's basically a caricature of the throwback old movie villains of yore. The Smurfs beats the odds; who knows why, but the end result is a fun and addictive little movie that's just maybe the surprise of the year. Sony's Blu-ray 3D release of The Smurfs is a dazzler. Reference video, reference audio, and a thorough selection of extra content makes this one of the year's best 3D releases and a must-own title. Very highly recommended.
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• Exclusive Giveaway: The Smurfs 3D - November 30, 2011
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• The Smurfs Blu-ray - September 21, 2011
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