Film Review: The Smurfs

The Smurfs is an adventure film aimed squarely at a young audience. Whilst the film should satisfy its target demographic, it is a shame that there is not more to appeal to older viewers who grew up watching the television cartoon.

Hoping to find the secret location of the Smurfs’ village, evil wizard Gargamel sets his plan in motion. As the Smurfs run to escape, they tumble out of their village and into Manhattan. With Gargamel close on their heels, the Smurfs must find their way back to their home, but they need the help of their new companions…

The Smurfs follows a pretty predictable narrative formula, typical of the family adventure genre. Given its aim at young children, the film lacks any real sense of peril. The film is still very watchable, but it plods along more than it grabs the viewer’s attention.

The film is schmaltzy in places, but this is almost inevitable given its style. The only real problem with the film is the lack of laughs. The Smurfs does features some amusing moments. However, these are simply not as frequent as they should be. Considering the formulaic nature of Raja Gosnell’s film, it really needs more effective jokes. Whilst the mild humour may please young children, parents and other older viewers would be more entertained if the comedy was more consistent and more successful.

The film features a nice nod to Peyo, creator of the Smurfs. Although this is pleasing touch, perhaps more could have been made of the Smurfs as mythical creatures. After some initial disbelief, their presence is readily accepted by the humans they encounter. The film may have worked better if it had been more self-reflexive and played up the Smurfs appearance as fictional media characters.

The scenes set in the Smurfs’ village offer sumptuous visuals. The effects are good overall. They have a cartoon-like quality, but this works well within the context of the film, and given the televisual history of the Smurfs. The 3D is used lightly for the most part; it is inoffensive but perhaps not worth the price of the uplift.

Hank Azaria makes a devilishly good Gargamel. He injects a lot of fun into the movie. Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays are suitably cast as Patrick and Grace. Katy Perry voices Smurfette well, but George Lopez and Alan Cumming can grate rather voicing Grouchy and Gutsy.

The Smurfs answers that age-old question of why there is only one female Smurf. Other than this, adults may be a bit unimpressed with the film, but young kids should be entertained.

Film Review: Hop

Hop is a fun and an unabashedly lightweight movie. The film should prove to be enjoyable youngsters and not at all painful for their parents.

Living on Easter Island, EB is reluctant to fulfill his destiny and become the next Easter Bunny, much to the dismay of his father. Similarly, Fred O’Hare in Los Angeles is kicked out by his parents, who are tired of their slacker son’s unwillingness to get a job. When Fred accidentally injures EB, he agrees to take in the talking bunny, little realising how it will change his life…

In its attempts to cultivate an Easter movie, Hop is commendable. The film makes a noble effort to elevate Easter to the same level of cultural mythologising that is afforded to Christmas. This is an acknowledged motivation, with Fred making a reference to Christmas at the very end of the movie.

Hop is refreshing in the fact that it tackles a different holiday; with the plethora of Christmas films, it is nice to see another occasion given a chance. Of course, like the majority of Christmas films, there is no religious aspect to Hop. Instead, it is the more secular aspects that are given credence in the film.

The action is a little slow to get going in Hop. However, once the film picks up the pace, it is an enjoyable ride. The film is not as consistently funny as it could be, however the humour that is present is likely to appeal to children and the young at heart. Hop references a number of other films, including Jurassic Park. The nods to such movies are cute, but not particularly innovative; numerous animated films have employed this tactic.

The animation in Hop is fantastic. It blends seamlessly with the live action, and EB in particular looks remarkably realistic. Although live action and animation have been combined in films several times before, the technology used in Hop makes it the most appropriate progeny of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Elsewhere, the wonderful imagery of the candy production lines conjures memories of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Voicing EB, Russell Brand brings his usual schtick to Hop. James Marsden plays the lovable slacker well; the actor seems to have a flair for this kind of light comedy. Hank Azaria and Hugh Laurie are well cast voicing their respective characters.

Hop is an entertaining film, perfectly suitable for the Easter break. It may not be outright hilarious, but the film has a certain charm that most will find endearing.

Film Review: Love and Other Drugs

Love and Other Drugs is an enjoyable comedy drama with two very attractive leads. The film retains a good balance between humour and emotion, which only strays too far one way at the end of the film.

Jamie is a charming ladies’ man hoping to become a success in the burgeoning pharmaceutical sales industry. He is instantly smitten by Maggie, a young artist living with Parkinson’s disease. Jamie must struggle with the stressful nature of his job while also pursuing Maggie, a free spirit who does not intend to get tied down…

One of the highlights of Love and Other Drugs is the way the two protagonists are developed. The opening scene works perfectly to succinctly compose an illustration of Jamie as an attractive and charismatic guy who can charm any woman. It is a great opening to both the character and the film. Maggie’s personality, on the other hand, evolves over the course of the film, revealing both her bluntness and her sensitivity at various intervals.

There is nothing groundbreaking about the story; the narrative turns in Love and Other Drugs are fairly predictable. The film’s strength lies in its ability to project believable and interesting characters. Aside from a few cheesy moments at the end of the film, the dialogue appears authentic, and is peppered with humour and affection.

Love and Other Drugs differentiates itself from other films in the same vein through its very particular setting. Taking place in the late 1990s, the film is set in a period where pharmaceuticals became big business with drugs being sold commercially. Love and Other Drugs casts a knowing eye over how the industry evolved in this era. This is accompanied by a great soundtrack featuring tracks from that period and prior to it.

Edward Zwick does a capable job of directing the film. Love and Other Drugs‘ emphasis is firmly on the couple, yet allows for some interesting side characters. Many of the scenes between Jamie and Maggie are beautifully crafted, employing adept camerawork and editing to create an intimacy between both the couple themselves, and the couple and the audience. The home video footage is particularly striking in the way it highlights the beauty of both actors.

Jake Gyllenhaal is convincing as Jamie, oozing the charm that is so central to this character. Anne Hathaway demonstrates an admirable range, showing that Rachel Getting Married was no fluke. The charismatic pair are bolstered by some great supporting players, including Hank Azaria and Josh Gad. Judy Greer is delightfully ditzy in a small role.

Love and Other Drugs effectively combines depth and lightness, delivering a believable rendering of a tumultuous relationship. For the most part, the film strikes the right balance, which makes the decline at the ending unfortunate but not unforgivable.