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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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Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi: Mystical ecstasy is the elevation of the spirit to God in such a way that the person is aware of this union with God while both internal and external senses are detached from the sensible world. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi was so generously given this special gift of God that she is called the "ecstatic saint." 
<p>She was born into a noble family in Florence in 1566. The normal course would have been for Catherine de' Pazzi to have married wealth and enjoyed comfort, but she chose to follow her own path. At nine she learned to meditate from the family confessor. She made her first Communion at the then-early age of 10 and made a vow of virginity one month later. When 16, she entered the Carmelite convent in Florence because she could receive Communion daily there. </p><p>Catherine had taken the name Mary Magdalene and had been a novice for a year when she became critically ill. Death seemed near so her superiors let her make her profession of vows from a cot in the chapel in a private ceremony. Immediately after, she fell into an ecstasy that lasted about two hours. This was repeated after Communion on the following 40 mornings. These ecstasies were rich experiences of union with God and contained marvelous insights into divine truths. </p><p>As a safeguard against deception and to preserve the revelations, her confessor asked Mary Magdalene to dictate her experiences to sister secretaries. Over the next six years, five large volumes were filled. The first three books record ecstasies from May of 1584 through Pentecost week the following year. This week was a preparation for a severe five-year trial. The fourth book records that trial and the fifth is a collection of letters concerning reform and renewal. Another book, <i>Admonitions</i>, is a collection of her sayings arising from her experiences in the formation of women religious. </p><p>The extraordinary was ordinary for this saint. She read the thoughts of others and predicted future events. During her lifetime, she appeared to several persons in distant places and cured a number of sick people. </p><p>It would be easy to dwell on the ecstasies and pretend that Mary Magdalene only had spiritual highs. This is far from true. It seems that God permitted her this special closeness to prepare her for the five years of desolation that followed when she experienced spiritual dryness. She was plunged into a state of darkness in which she saw nothing but what was horrible in herself and all around her. She had violent temptations and endured great physical suffering. She died in 1607 at 41, and was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, keep me in your care. Guard me in my actions. Teach me to love, and help me to turn to you throughout the day. The world is filled with temptations. As I move through my day, keep me close. May those I encounter feel your loving presence. Lord, be the work of my hands and my heart. Amen.

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