If a Smurf Smurfs in the Smurf and No One Smurfs, Does It Smurf?

smurf

The most entertaining Hollywood scandals are the ones that don’t take. Columbia Pictures found this out the hard way last week when a poster for its upcoming The Smurfs movie got leaked… and no one cared. Chris Neumer investigates and learns that this is only one of many reasons that The Smurfs is going to be a horrible movie.

by Chris Neumer

Hollywood is an industry that truly benefits from scandals. The age-old adage is that “any press is good press” and the film world certainly adheres to this belief. In spite of this, there are still occasionally scandals that don’t take. They are presented to the public as per usual, the people involved in them take them just as seriously as the big Micha Barton scandals, but, for some reason, they just don’t take. Ironically, these are the scandals that are most worth watching. There is a lot of inherent entertainment value in the concept of a scandal going up in flames – by not being the talk of town. And this is precisely what happened last week with the, ahem, scandal surrounding the leak of The Smurfs movie poster.

There are two reactions that one can have to this news. A) What the hell is a Smurf? Or B) What the hell are they doing making a Smurfs movie? The answer to A is “a genital-less blue gnome with a short tail that lives in the woods and is three apples tall”. Apparently, they also taste good, judging from the Smurfs’ nemesis Gargamel’s constant desire to eat them. The answer to B is that Alvin and the Chipmunks grossed $217 million. How a Shirt Tales or live-action He-Man movie hasn’t come out yet is anyone’s guess.

When the poster first leaked, everyone affiliated with The Smurfs movie (to be released December 17, 2010) was hoping that there would be a third reaction, C) “Omigod! I can’t wait for these next 16 months to speed by so I can see this flick.”

This was a pipe dream though, especially after word got out that The Smurfs movie was being directed by Raja Gosnell. He of Scooby Doo, Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Home Alone 3 fame.* About the only director that the blogosphere dislikes more than Gosnell is Michael Bay.

* People love to bash Gosnell. I used to too. I changed my tune after speaking to several people in the Hollywood community who mentioned that Gosnell is one of the most professional directors in the film world. When you bring Gosnell on board a project, you can be assured of two things: he will bring it in on or under-budget and he will bring it on time. As a journalist, I can appreciate a filmmaker whose calling card amongst studios is his ability to hit deadlines while staying on budget. This is why you will never hear me say a bad word about Gosnell.

But back to the poster. This poster was leaked after someone took a digital photo of a computer screen and posted the results online. The poster shows a confused looking (and strangely generic) Smurf with the tagline above his head, “Say Hello To Our Little Friend”. While most animated films don’t use taglines that bring to mind drug addled, narco kingpins of the eighties, The Smurfs is aiming to change this around. Although, if I recall correctly, James and the Giant Peach did okay with the tagline of “You wanna fuck with me? You’re fucking with the best! You wanna fuck with me? Okay. You little cockroaches!”

I think the real problem with The Smurfs movie is a problem that seemingly befalls all newer incarnations of old TV shows. Intent on making the appeal of the new movie as broad as possible, the studios eschew some of the quirkier elements of the original series – the precise elements that made the original so popular – in favor of more universal themes. I mean, The Smurfs was a weird, little eighties cartoon show about tiny blue creatures that lived in the woods in mushroom houses and spent the majority of each episode matching wits with Gargamel or another minion of evil. If we can believe The Smurfs‘ casting call on backstage.com, the lead characters in The Smurfs movie are going to be an 8-10 year old girl and her 13-16 year old brother. A live-action 8-10 year old girl and her live-action 13-16 year old brother. The plot can basically be described as Gremlins, but with a Smurf instead of a Mogwai. When the aforementioned kids’ dad gets back from a trip to Belgium, he gives the girl a Smurf that he mistakenly believes to be a doll. The rest of the movie focuses on the kids’ attempts to get the Smurf home.

Sigh…

Well, at least the movie doesn’t plan on beating viewers over the head with family values and investigate the way that the older boy’s involvement in the Smurfs’ quest to get home [enables him to] reconnect with his parents and sister.

What?!! It does?!?!!! And that copy is lifted verbatim from the casting call?!! Oh, dear God.

Would it have been too much to ask for to simply have a Smurfs movie that featured the Smurfs smurfing around in the woods and fighting off Gargamel? Or, if the producers really wanted to do something different, imagine this scenario: the Smurfs repel Gargamel’s initial attempts to capture them and, in doing so, learn that the reason he is out to get them is because he needs Smurf blood to complete a potion that will return his kidnapped family to him. Upset at the non-smurfy nature of this, the good-hearted Smurfs then embark on a mission to save Gargamel’s family, in the process converting even the bald misanthrope to their side. This would be perfect because The Smurfs 2 could then feature the Smurfs and Gargamel working hand-in-hand to fight another bad guy. By The Smurfs 3, Gargamel could revert to form to give the Smurfs their main adversary back.

But no, we’re looking at two kids who are going to learn that family is important. Apropos of nothing, if there’s not a sequence in The Smurfs Movie where the kids take the fish-out-of-water Smurf to see Blue Man Group, I’m going to be very upset. Sadly for Columbia Pictures, all this little scandal has done is convince a section of America that in 16 months a supremely bad movie is going to be hitting theaters. I guess, on the bright side, The Smurfs will be hitting theaters on time and under budget.


UPDATE: The Smurfs poster that leaked is allegedly not an actual poster promoting the movie. It’s a marketing poster designed to bring other companies on board with cross promotional opportunities. For example, Columbia might send the poster to Burger King executives in an attempt to get Burger King to sell Smurf toys with their kids meals and also discuss the opportunity of having the film’s climactic scene take place in one of their fast food restaurants.

Somehow, this information makes the amateurish nature of the poster even worse. What major companies are going to look at that poster and think, “Cancel lunch! I’ve got to call Columbia Pictures and strike up a deal with them on The Smurfs Movie.”

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