Review: The Smurfs (2011) by Jamie

I don’t really remember ever watching ‘The Smurfs’ as a kid but I know the basic gist of the whole thing. Bunch of little blue creatures live in a forest and an evil wizard tries to capture them. Pretty simple premise so why not take that idea and stretch it out in a live action/CGI mixed feature length film? Well how about because a) that’s a paper-thin premise that seems like it would require a lot of padding and b) The Smurfs are some of the most irritating fuckers to ever grace the silver screen. This is a point which is actually acknowledged several times throughout the film. If much of the supporting cast are pointing out just how unlikeable the little blue shits are, what makes the film makers believe that anyone watching it should care about them?

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to point a. So how do you pad out such a simple concept? Well, you take the Smurfs and the evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria) and teleport them to modern day Manhattan! It’s a fish out of water story where the characters find themselves confused by the everyday things we take for granted! That concept’s never been done before! (For films that have, to some extent, explored very similar concepts see: Blast From The Past, Coneheads, Crocodile Dundee, Elf, Enchanted, Encino Man, Hercules In New York, The Little Mermaid, Short Circuit, Thor… I think you get my point). I suppose I shouldn’t be to angry with the writers. I imagine they were just told to write a script for a Smurf movie and, honestly, what more could really be done with the concept?

So anyway, The Smurfs are transported to New York and end up staying with Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and Grace (Jayma Mays) Winslow and together the group learn important lessons about how important family is and how you’re more than just one defining characteristic, which may be true for humans but honestly seems to go against everything Smurf society is built on. In fact I imagine the sequel to this film involving Clumsy Smurf bringing this dangerous new philosophy back to the Smurf village and, in turn, starting a revolution against the dictatorial Papa Smurf who was the one who gave them all their predetermined roles in life in the first place. Yes, an encounter with human characters other than a one dimensional bad guy can only lead to the spilling of gallons of blue blood. Will the plucky rebels come out on top or will Papa Smurf be able to retain his iron grip on Smurf Society? Find out in ‘The Smurfs 2: Viva La Smurfolucion!’ coming in the summer of 2013.

Ahem. I seem to have gotten a little sidetracked. There are some amusing moments from the couples interaction with the blue demonspawn most of it stemming from Will’s absolute and completely understandable annoyance when it comes to the way that the Smurfs, well, just the way that the Smurfs are. He rails against them for randomly replacing words with the word Smurf. This makes sense because seriously CAN’T POSSIBLY MAKE ANY SENSE IF YOU USE THE WORD SMURF FOR EVERYTHING! VERBS, ADVERBS, NOUNS, PRONOUNS, PROFANITIES! IT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE GRAMATICALLY OR LINGUISTICALLY! I mean, the last thing Patrick says to Grace is “Grace, I smurf you” which is either very sweet or a filthy and degrading insult. There ambiguity of the word Smurf means that there is no way to tell which.

He also points out just how fucking irritating the Smurfs theme tune is which they sing, whistle or hum a fuck load in this goddamn movie. If you’re lucky enough to have never heard the theme tune to the Smurfs, allow me to shatter that peaceful existence you one had and destroy the happiness that once dwelled in your heart:

Yeah, like I said, that theme just keeps coming back again and again and again. There is one time, near the end, where the song is used almost as a war chant a the creatures prepare for their showdown with Gargamel which was, admittedly, kinda inventive. So well done for that I guess.

Speaking of Gargamel, Hank Azaria is actually one of the movies small redeeming features, particularly near the beginning of the film. He also makes a few cracks about The Smurf way of life that everyone has discussed since they got old enough to realise just how fucking weird it was that the Smurfs lived in a village that only had one female. Unfortunately as the film goes on, Azaria gets more and more over the top and eventually becomes almost as irritating as the protagonists. As for the rest of the cast, well, there’s really only one person worth mentioning and that’s Sofia Vergara.


Sofia Vergara

I don’t remember anything about her performance,
but she is worth mentioning.

So all in all, just how bad is ‘The Smurfs’? Well, it’s pretty fucking bad, I don’t know how well it would play for kids but really who cares because kids are idiots. If they weren’t then they wouldn’t get smarter as they got older. In terms of these CGI/live action reboots of old cartoon series though, it is better than the Chipmunk movies and the Transformers movies because whilst this film is awful, it does have some redeeming moments here and there and I didn’t feel totally mentally, physically and spiritually drained after watching it unlike those other franchises. On the other hand, it did have one of the worst blasphemies committed against music. The Smurfs replacing various words in ‘Walk This Way’ with word Smurf…Fuckers.

And that’s one of the big problems with these kinds of films. They take these innocent little cartoons that made up many of our childhoods and try and modernise them in a way that just seems tacky, out of place, completely unnecessary and it just reeks of a coroporate type’s idea of getting down with the kids in the most simplistic, basic and crass way possible. “What do kids like? Rap. Can we make the Smurfs rap? Excellent. That should sell a few more tickets.” All it actually ends up doing is to make the whole thing end up seeming like an empty shell of what it once was, putting as little effort as possible into what was once a beloved franchise in order to make a quick buck. And that’s sad… On the other hand:



The Smurfs gets one pint out of five.

Zombie Month Repost: Fido by Jamie

Originally posted 30th October, 2009.

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A newer entry into Halloweek today, the 2006 film about a boy and his zombie, Fido.

The Depress-A-Thon: Happiness by Jamie

Happiness, happiness. I’ve been told that it’s the greatest gift that one can possess. But can anyone ever truly be happy? Is happiness merely a mask that people wear in order to protect themselves from the harsh realities of life? And what of those who can only find happiness by acting on strange impulses and fantasies? Do we as human beings even deserve happiness? (Spoilers Ahead!)

These are just a few of the questions you may ponder as you watch Todd Solondz’s 1998 film ‘Happiness’ a story starring an ensemble cast with interweaving stories which all seem to centre around the Jordan family in particular the Jordan Sisters, Helen (Lara Flynn Boyle), Trish (Cynthia Stevenson) and Joy (Jane Adams).

Joy is thirty-year old aspiring musician who still lives in her parents old home, works a crappy job and has basically no prospects for the future. Her sisters feign confidence in her to her face but in actuality it’s clear that neither of them think that she will ever be anything more than a lonely failure. The film opens with Joy on a date with Andy (Jon Lovitz), a co-worker and it’s clear that she’s just dumped him. He goes on to accuse her of being shallow before making a scene in the restaurant. He later kills himself. This causes Joy to leave her telephone sales job in an effort to do something more worth her while, becoming a teacher at an immigrant-education centre.

The problem is that she’s hired during a strike and even her students accuse her of being a scab. All except for one, a Russian named Vlad (Jarred Harris) who apparently takes quite a liking to her. He gives her a lift back to New Jersey where they have sex. Things finally seem to be going well for Joy until she finds out that Vlad was merely using her for money and to steal things from her.

Helen is a celebrated author who seemingly has the perfect life. She’s rich, famous and can have practically any man she wants. This life, however, leaves her wanting more. She’s worried that people only like her because of her success and she feels, ultimately, that her success is undeserved. She worries that because she writes about rape whilst never having been raped that she is a sham. She desires something more out of life, something to make her excited again.

Enter Allen (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), Helen’s neighbour who is obsessed with her and making obscene phone calls. When he decides to call her from work and talk all dirty at her, she traces his number and rings him back, fascinated with the disgusting nature of his call. They finally meet but it soon becomes clear that Helen has absolutely no interest in Allen whatsoever. Depressed, Allen seeks solace in the arms of a more homely neighbour who had been in love with him, a murdering rape victim who is disgusted by the very idea of sex.

Trish appears to be living what I believe some call the American dream. She is a mother of three and wife to a psychiatrist Bill Maplewood (Dylan Baker). She doesn’t seem to want for anything except that recently her sex life with her husband seems to have been suffering and she needs him to constantly reassure her that he loves her. Of course, the reason that Bill’s sexual appetite for his wife has diminished somewhat may be something to do with the fact that he is lusting after something else, young boys. He manages to control his urges by masturbating to pictures in magazines but an opportunity soon presents itself that Bill cannot resist.

A classmate of Bill’s son named Jonny comes for a sleepover one night, a classmate that Bill has developed something of an obsession with. During the night he drugs the boy and the rest of his family and rapes Jonny whilst he is unconscious. It seems as though this has unleashed something within Bill and when he learns that another classmate of his sons is home alone, he rapes him as well.

Jonny isn’t feeling to well after his night over at the Maplewood household and is eventually taken to hospital where it is revealed that he has been raped. This leads the police to call round and interview Bill. The police begin to question him about Jonny to which Bill replies with a question about the other boy, pretty much sealing his fate. This leads to a final conversation between Bill and his son where he explains that he did the things he is being accused of, enjoyed them, would do them again but he wouldn’t rape his own son. No, he’d just jerk off instead.

The final story within the film is that of the sisters two parents who, after forty years of marriage are finally separating though not getting divorced. The reason being that Lenny (Ben Gazzara) claims that he no longer loves his wife, just wants to be alone and has seemingly lost all capacity for normal human emotion.

So yeah, that’s pretty much a small synopsis of the film ‘Happiness’… Well, maybe it’s not small but it’s kind of hard to write a small synopsis for a film that has five different stories interweaving with each other, especially when all of those stories all seem to have a fairly equal amount of depth. Some are given more weight than others. For example, though it is clear that Joy is probably supposed to be the main character to some degree, it is Bill who comes of feeling more like he’s the focus of the film. This might be because his character seems to have the most dimensions to him.

Bill is the one who commits the most horrendous and reprehensible acts (acts which are thankfully only ever implied off-screen) whilst also being… I don’t want to say the most sympathetic character but Todd Solondz does somehow make you feel a little sorry for him. He’s different from most film portrayals of paedophiles in that he’s not a one-dimensional monster, he actually has good attributes as well. He’s a good husband and a good father which perhaps makes it all the more shocking when he does the things that he does. He’s not a monster, outwardly he’s just like everyone else and that makes him all the more horrible to contemplate.

The ironic thing about the title here is, of course, that no one in the film is happy. Helen is emotionally unfulfilled despite her pretty sweet life, Joy cannot seem to ever, ever get a break, Allen comes close to getting what he wants only to have any chance of it happening taken from him, Bill struggles and fails to control his urges and one character, Lenny has seemingly lost the ability to feel anything at all, let alone happiness. The implication of it all is that there is no such things as true happiness. It’s either an illusion that people convince themselves is real, either to cope with the horrid reality of living or protect themselves from their true nature, or if it does exist at all then it’s temporary and sooner or later something will come along to destroy it.

Despite this bleak outlook, ‘Happiness’ does actually manage to be rather funny and quite enjoyable. It’s a well made film with fantastic performances throughout. Dylan Baker and Phillip Seymour Hoffman stand out in particular, both managing to convey the conflicts within their characters perfectly. The music also remains ironically upbeat throughout the film, adding another layer to twisted nature of the film by doing things such as playing a happy go lucky kinda tune whilst a man suffers a heart attack on a golf course.

Now, I don’t know whether or not to recommend ‘Happiness’. It most certainly isn’t for everyone and there’s not much joy to be had in watching it though it is still a strangely enjoyable film to watch, if that makes any sense whatsoever. I’m not sure that it does. In fact, the only technical problem I can find with the film is that sometimes it seems as though a few things are pushed just a little too far for humours sake and they fall a little flat and outside the realms of believability that the rest of the film seems to inhabit. Still, I’ll give this film four pints out of five. Haven’t decided what the review for tomorrow will be yet but I’ll try and pick something that doesn’t involve paedophilia whatsoever, though the subject does admittedly make for a rather depressing, enraging and upsetting movie watching experience. Laterz.

Halloweek: Fido by Jamie

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A newer entry into Halloweek today, the 2006 film about a boy and his zombie, Fido.

Halloweek: Gremlins 2: The New Batch by Jamie


God, I didn’t realise how much making a new video every day would take out of me. This has become a very, very long week. Anyway, time for part 4 in the Halloweek series, this time Gremlins 2: The New Batch.

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