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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Smurfs

By
Kurt Jensen
Source: Catholic News Service


Brainy, Papa, Grouchy, Gutsy and Smurfette appear in a scene from the movie "The Smurfs."
Young children should giggle constantly through "The Smurfs" (Columbia), a comedy mixing animation and live action in which 3-D versions of the famous blue elves (only three apples high) leave their enchanted forest village to interact with an all-star cast in our world—and get tossed around and squished like so many Nerf balls in the process.

As for accompanying adults—who may or may not have grown up with the 1980s Hanna-Barbera cartoon series on NBC—they're more likely to think, "Hey, at least it only lasts 86 minutes!"

Some forays into potty humor aside, director Raja Gosnell and the screenwriting team of J. David Stem, David N. Weiss, Jay Scherick and David Ronn keep the slapstick-laden story mostly free of objectionable elements.

Extending a franchise that originated in the 1950s with the work of Belgian cartoonist Peyo (Pierre Culliford, 1928-1992), the filmmakers kick off this latest adventure with Gargamel (Hank Azaria), the evil wizard who has long been the Smurfs' nemesis, chasing a sextet of them off their home turf and pursuing them through a wormhole that leads smack dab into New York's Central Park (convenient, that!).

Once there, it's great fun to see the six Smurfs—Papa, Gutsy, Smurfette, Brainy, Grouchy and Clumsy (voiced, respectively, by Jonathan Winters, Alan Cumming, Katy Perry, Fred Armisen, George Lopez and Anton Yelchin)—attempt to get their bearings and navigate Gotham. As they do, they discover famed toy store FAO Schwarz, and come to the aid of an expectant couple: advertising whiz Patrick Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris) and his wife, Grace (Jayma Mays).

Patrick is trying to come up with a new ad campaign for a fragrance, and this becomes the cue for Gargamel—who's still dogging the Smurfs—to find that he fits in quite well with Manhattan's sophisticated fashionistas. In one of the film's in-jokes youngsters are unlikely to comprehend, the elite of the rag trade come to regard Gargamel as an eccentric genius in a bathrobe.

Of course, his ability to conjure up Smurf-powered eternal youth and beauty puts him in demand, while his quest for magic Smurf essence drives the plot forward.

A scene in which Gargamel mistakes a champagne bucket for a chamber pot seems grafted from an Adam Sandler film. Similarly, when the traveling Smurfs find themselves temporarily confined in Patrick's briefcase, one of them demands, "All right, who smurfed?"

At another point, we hear Gutsy proclaim, "You've got to grab life by the grapes!"

Such gags, though rare, suggest that the filmmakers couldn't decide whether to keep this iteration pure and sweet or descend into crude riffs on the classic characters.

Additionally, the conclusion is a bit intense—closer to a "Harry Potter"-style climax than the gentle wrap-up of a tale for tots.

The film contains moderately intense action sequences, mild scatological humor, and some slapstick violence. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I—general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

*****
Kurt Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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Bernard of Clairvaux: Man of the century! Woman of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today—“golfer of the century,” “composer of the century,” “right tackle of the century”—that the line no longer has any punch. But Western Europe's “man of the twelfth century,” without doubt or controversy, has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Adviser of popes, preacher of the Second Crusade, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic Order, Scripture scholar, theologian and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. Yet Bernard was all of these—and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days. 
<p>In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light. </p><p>His ability as arbitrator and counselor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome, he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the Church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know. </p><p>Shortly thereafter it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favor of the Roman pontiff against the antipope. </p><p>The Holy See prevailed on Bernard to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe. His eloquence was so overwhelming that a great army was assembled and the success of the crusade seemed assured. The ideals of the men and their leaders, however, were not those of Abbot Bernard, and the project ended as a complete military and moral disaster. </p><p>Bernard felt responsible in some way for the degenerative effects of the crusade. This heavy burden possibly hastened his death, which came August 20, 1153.</p> American Catholic Blog One of the things that we need to remember is that we’re preaching Jesus, not the institutional Church. It’s easy to get caught up in the rules and regulations of the institution and forget that we are saved not by the Church but by the person of Jesus or the Church as the body of Christ.

 
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