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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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Augustine of Canterbury: In the year 596, some 40 monks set out from Rome to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons in England. Leading the group was Augustine, the prior of their monastery in Rome. Hardly had he and his men reached Gaul (France) when they heard stories of the ferocity of the Anglo-Saxons and of the treacherous waters of the English Channel. Augustine returned to Rome and to the pope who had sent them—St. Gregory the Great (September 3 )—only to be assured by him that their fears were groundless. 
<p>Augustine again set out. This time the group crossed the English Channel and landed in the territory of Kent, ruled by King Ethelbert, a pagan married to a Christian, Bertha. Ethelbert received them kindly, set up a residence for them in Canterbury and within the year, on Pentecost Sunday, 597, was himself baptized. After being consecrated a bishop in France, Augustine returned to Canterbury, where he founded his see. He constructed a church and monastery near where the present cathedral, begun in 1070, now stands. As the faith spread, additional sees were established at London and Rochester. </p><p>Work was sometimes slow and Augustine did not always meet with success. Attempts to reconcile the Anglo-Saxon Christians with the original Briton Christians (who had been driven into western England by Anglo-Saxon invaders) ended in dismal failure. Augustine failed to convince the Britons to give up certain Celtic customs at variance with Rome and to forget their bitterness, helping him evangelize their Anglo-Saxon conquerors </p><p>Laboring patiently, Augustine wisely heeded the missionary principles—quite enlightened for the times—suggested by Pope Gregory the Great: purify rather than destroy pagan temples and customs; let pagan rites and festivals be transformed into Christian feasts; retain local customs as far as possible. The limited success Augustine achieved in England before his death in 605, a short eight years after he arrived in England, would eventually bear fruit long after in the conversion of England. Augustine of Canterbury can truly be called the “Apostle of England.”</p> American Catholic Blog When we go through pain it is easy to feel abandoned or forgotten, but suffering doesn’t mean God doesn’t love us, He does. Even Jesus suffered, and He was completely without sin.

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