The Smurfs – The evil wizard Gargamel extracts the ‘essence’ of Smurfs – tiny, blue peace-loving creatures – in order to power his magic. During preparation for the Blue Moon festival he chases them through a magic portal which opens up into the real world. Trapped, Clumsy, Grumpy, Smurfette, Gutsy, Brainy and Papa Smurf must do all they can to get back before it is too late. But with Gargamel’s magic proving very effective in our world, will they make it in time?

The Smurfs (2011) – Raja Gosnell

the smurfs (2011) movie poster

By Source, Fair use,

Rating: U

Running Length: 103 mins

Starring: Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris, Anton Yelchin, Jayma Mays

Genre: Comedy, Animated


In their first big screen outing, the timelessly popular tiny blue Smurfs (as created by Belgian comic strip artist, Peyo) get to escape the confines of Smurf village and hit the mean streets of New York, with the evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria) in hot pursuit. The movie chooses to focus on a small troupe of Smurfs. Each Smurf is named after their defining characteristic, so virtually all gags are signposted by the simple characterisation.

Patriarch, Papa Smurf, tries to keep the gang together while Clumsy (Anton Yechin) inevitably makes things worse. The slapstick farce of the Smurfs gets rather grating for adult eyes with little in the way of endearing jokes or moments. But while children will enjoy the colourful pratfalls and one-liners of the Smurfs, parents are more likely to enjoy the exasperated and buttoned down Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and warm, supportive Grace (Jayma Mays). Patrick has a tenuous grip on his marketing job due to a temperamental boss (an amusingly shallow Sofia Vergara) and the arrival of the Smurfs throws extra chaos into his life. But he is also an expectant father, and the movie does succeed in the not-so-subtle parallel between his difficulty in dealing with the tiny feet running through his apartment and his worry about impending fatherhood.

But where ‘The Smurfs’ falls apart is a lack of consistency. The Smurfs vary from cutesy and naïve to cracking street wise with no rhyme or reason. The magical ability of Gargamel to restore the youth of a middle aged woman is pounced upon by the make up industry in what could have been a rich sub-plot, but oddly this is promptly forgotten by all characters in the third Act. Speaking of which, the best thing about the movie by far is Azaria as Gargamel. He gets the best gags, the best slapstick, and the best on-screen relationship with his heavily put-upon cat assistant, Azrael. Their hate / hate relationship and evil-but-not-too evil presence light up the screen.

‘The Smurfs’ is a typical modern movie for small children as made by marketing executives; don’t get us started on the sheer volume of product placement – including a particularly obnoxious M&Ms bit that just won’t end. However, despite some adult distaste, if you split the movie up there is something for everyone. Kids will undoubtedly enjoy the cartoony and wacky Smurfs, whereas adults will relate to the adult characters and enjoy the tongue-in-cheek presence of Gargamel. Just steel yourself for the endurance of demanded repeated viewings, is all we suggest.


The narration describes that Smurf village is populated by Papa Smurf, 99 Smurf boys and 1 girl in Smurfette, before remarking wryly that ‘there’s nothing odd about that’.

Azrael the cat lands on top of Gargamel’s head. Gargamel looks up in disgust and then exclaims in surprise ‘[you’re] a boy?!’

Papa Smurf has a vision of the future. He sees a cackling Gargamel and various upset Smurfs trapped in birdcages, The vision is nightmarish and he is very concerned by it. It lasts about a minute before ending and switching to a light-hearted comedy moment.

Gargamel and Azrael discover a magic invisibility barrier that is hiding the Smurf village. Gargamel picks up Azrael – a cat – and throws him bodily through the barrier. He disappears. Gargamel then asks ‘Are you dead?!’ A responding meow proves that Azrael is fine. They then both proceed to stomp all over the Smurf village, destroying homes and chasing scared Smurfs.

A dog (a Basset Hound) chases Clumsy around an apartment. Clumsy is scared and flees. But the moment is over quickly and there is some comedy parts to lighten the tension.

Gutsy starts to threaten a character but is placated. He says the character is lucky as he was about to ‘make haggis with your innards’. He holds his hands to his stomach and pushes them away wiggling his fingers as he says this.

Gargamel insults a woman by calling her ugly. He then uses magic to make her youthful. The camera pans over her body whilst this is happening and her breasts swell and plump up whilst her bottom tightens and protrudes more.

A character talks about heads on spikes and gestures with a knife in upwards stabbing motions to emphasis the point.

Gargamel is generally abusive to his cat, Azrael. He stamps on its tail when it laughs at him referring to himself as a genius. He also throws it out the window of a moving car. Azrael is shown unhurt each time and is generally just annoyed, but this behaviour could be imitable.

One character says that a turn of phrase ‘rolls off the tongue like the flesh from a pilgrim or heretic”

Gargamel is in a restaurant and takes a wine cooler, believing it to be a ‘chamber pot’. He then goes behind a desk and proceeds to relieve himself. He can only be seen from the waist up but the resulting sound effects are obvious. Disgusting customers watch him, aghast.

There is a prolonged product placement scene for M&Ms where one Smurf lands in a bowl of them and remarks how tasty they are. He then ‘falls in love’ with a female M&M plushy and proceeds to try and gain ‘her’ affections. During this same scene Smurfette realises that it is possible to have more than one kind of dress and becomes obsessed with shopping. As the only female character her stereotypical materialistic desires in this scene are disappointing in that she appears unable to be satisfied until she has more possessions. In a later scene she preens over her new dress and there is a ‘Marilyn Munroe’ moment where it is blown up by the air vents. The other Smurfs drop their jaws at this, although Gutsy quickly joins in so his kilt blows up. He remarks that it is ‘good to cool the giblets’ and that there is ‘nothing like a cool breeze through the enchanted forest’.

Gargamel uses a leaf blower to suck up terrified Smurfs. It becomes blocked with an animal that appears in distress until he sets it to ‘blow’. It swells in size until expelled.

One character complains about the Smurfs constantly using the word ‘smurf’ to replace random words. He then speaks in gibberish, exclaiming, “Smurfity smurf smurf!” to which the Smurf recoil in shock and say ‘no call for that kind of language!”



The Smurfs is clearly designed to appeal to small children but makes a few missteps with some crass jokes intended to pull in an older viewer and a disappointingly ‘stereotypical modern girl’ approach to Smurfette when some more developed character development would have been welcome. That, combined with crass product placement, means that adult viewers may have to tune out certain sections. But when the Smurfs gets it right it does manage to balance a wry sense of humour against cutesy child appeal. We would recommend ‘The Smurfs’ as suitable for children aged 4 and over.

  • Violence: 2/5 (very comical in nature but constant animal attacks against Azrael which could be copied by children)
  • Emotional Distress: 1/5 (short moments of upset)
  • Fear Factor: 1/5 (When the Smurfs themselves are afraid, this fear could transfer to a child viewer but any ‘scary’ moments are tempered by comedy parts or do not last long. When Gargamel shoots magic lightning at Papa Smurf this takes the form of an electric hand)
  • Sexual Content: 1/5 (some mild innuendo)
  • Bad Language: 1/5 (several occasions when ‘smurf’ takes the place of where a swear or curse word would be)
  • Dialogue: 1/5 (some mildly threatening language – as detailed above)
  • Other Notes: Deals with themes of self-fulfilling prophecy, becoming what is expected of you, fighting to establish your identity, greed for power, family love, impending parenthood, and materialism

Words by Michael Record


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