Smurfs, The (UK - BD)
Chris tires to think of a good pun about Smurfs and fails. Read his BD review...
When the evil wizard Gargamel chases the tiny blue Smurfs out of their village, they tumble from their magical world and into ours - in fact, right in the middle of Central Park. Just three apples high and stuck in the Big Apple, the Smurfs must find a way to get back to their village before Gargamel tracks them down. (Taken from the Sony synopsis.)
Do you like your films bright and colourful? If the answer is yes, The Smurfs will be right up your street! The 1.78:1 (1080/24p AVC) widescreen image is awash with intense primaries right from the opening moments, and the lush greens of the magical forest and vibrant reds, yellows and, of course, blues of the Smurfs and their village look fantastic. Once the film moves into live action territory the palette becomes more grounded in reality, but it still retains a slightly 'otherworldly' appearance courtesy of some subtle colour grading that adds plenty of warmth. Detail is exemplary throughout, be it the artificial word of the Smurfs (or indeed the Smurfs themselves) or the New York cityscape. The human actors also exhibit great skin and clothing texturing. Contrast is spot on and the image looks to be all-but free from defects. (I certanly didn't notice anything untoward while I was wtching the film.) I could harp on about how great the film looks for ages, but there's really no point. The Smurfs is a fantastic looking Blu-ray.
The awesome visuals are accompanied by an equally impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. Energetic really doesn't do it justice and I think perhaps manic is a more accurate adjective. The opening couple of minutes are a whirlwind of activity as Smurfs fly through the soundstage atop birds, twisting through enormous trees before entering their magic kingdom, which is alive with the sound of the little blue fellas (and Smurfette) going about their Smurfy activities. As an introduction to the film it's very effective in setting the tone, being that it features some superbly atmospheric ambient effects and plenty of effective discrete touches. Other highlights include Gargamel's attack on the Smurf kingdom, the journey through the portal and the final battle, all of which exemplify the track's best qualities. I was also taken aback by the occasional ferocity of the bass, which came as a surprise in a film like this. Dialogue is generally intelligible, although not for the first time in recent memory I found that the rear channels occasionally overshadowed the frontal array to the detriment of the vocals. Oh, and if there's one thing the the Smurfs like to do it's sing, and as the various Smurfs go about their Smurfy business we hear plenty of that, including the signature Smurf theme song with its familiar 'la la lala la la' refrain. If you're anything like me it will start to drive you mad after about the sixth time you hear it. Even so, this is still a very impressive track.
First up we have the 'Smurf-O-Vision: Second Screen Experience', which is useless unless you own an iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad. If you do have one of Apple's gadgets you can sync with the movie and interact with it on your second screen as long as all devices are synced on the same wireless network. I don't know about you, but that sounds like an awful lot of messing around to me. If you don't have the necessary hardware you can watch the features overlayed on the film using just your BD player and TV, but you lose the interactivity. A dedicated 'What is Smurf-O-Vision Second Screen' (01:21 HD) featurette is on-hand to explain things to first time users. 'The Smurfs Fantastic Adventure Game' is a three-level game played with the Blu-ray remote. In it, players must try to aid Clumsy as he attempts to rescue Papa Smurf from Gargamel's clutches.
A couple of commentary tracks follow - one from director Raja Gosnell and another from producer Jordan Kerner, VFX supervisor Richard Hoover, and writers J. David Stem, David N. Weiss, Jay Scherick and David Ronn - but I'd be lying if I said that I listened to them both in their entirety. I simply couldn't sit through the film twice more in quick succession. Five deleted/extended scenes come next (07:41 HD), but there's really nothing here that would have transformed the film (although the additional Hank Azaria stuff isn't bad). 'The Smurfs: Comic Book to the Big Screen' (08:15 HD) is a relatively informative piece that examines the source material and the process of bringing the characters to the big screen.
Moving along we come to 'Smurf Speak: Meet the Cast' (09:26 HD), in which the voice cast discuss the feature and their roles, while 'Going Gargamel' (09:57 HD) focuses on the real highlight of the film, Hank Azaria's performance. The 'Happy Music Montage' (01:49) will most likely drive you insane with its bland, repetitive pop tunes, and the 'Blue-Pers' (00:25 HD) are totally redundant because they were artificially created and ridiculously short. 'Progression Reels' (09:14 HD) are five featurettes that focus on the process of designing the characters, virtual sets, 3D modelling and lighting, and all of the other things that go into realising a modern animated feature. The usual BD-Live features are also included, which is to say not much, along with a DVD copy of the film for your second room, laptop, or wherever.
Fantastic visuals, brilliant audio, and a decent selection of bonus material. It is, then, a great pity that the film itself isn't particularly good. I quite like Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays, so I actually held out some hope that I would be at least mildly entertained, but unfortunately I was bored for most of the runtime. It doesn't help that I've seen this sort of thing done fairly recently in Disney's Enchanted, a much more enjoyable film which with The Smurfs has more than a little bit in common. I even had more fun with Gnomeo & Juliet, and I wasn't a huge fan of that. If you (or your kids) liked the movie you can probably add another two or three points to the overall score, but it wasn't for me. Either way the Blu-ray itself is pretty great, so feel free to ignore my grouchy old opinion of the feature and base your decision on the technical merits.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable for all
Release Date: 5th December 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Extras: Smurf-O-Vision, Audio Commentaries, Deleted/Extended Scenes, Featurettes, Music Montage, Bloopers, Progression Reels, Adventure Game, BD-Live
Easter Egg: No
Director: Raja Gosnell
Cast: Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, Sofía Vergara, Jonathan Winters, Alan Cumming, Katy Perry, Fred Armisen, George Lopez, Anton Yelchin, Kenan Thompson, Frank Welker
Length: 103 minutes
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