DVD Release Date: December 2, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: July 29, 2011
Rating: PG (for some mild rude humor and action)
Genre: Live-Action/Animation, Family 
Run Time: 86 min.
Director: Raja Gosnell
Actors: Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria, Jayma Mays, Sofia Vergara. 
Voices of: Jonathan Winters, Katy Perry, Alan Cumming, Anton Yelchin, Fred Armisen, George Lopez

An entire generation has passed since the heyday of the Smurfs, a Saturday morning cartoon turned ‘80s cultural phenomenon based on the work of Belgian comic artist Peyo. In that time, the property has dropped off the pop culture radar, living only as a fond relic from Gen-Xers’ childhoods.

Now Sony Animation has resurrected the franchise into a CGI/live-action adventure hybrid with, no doubt, the hopes of getting the next generation to obsess over a blue species other than the Na’vi of Avatar. Unfortunately, beyond the vibrantly detailed and textured animation, they smurf the whole thing up with this strictly by-the-numbers reboot.

Simply titled The Smurfs, this movie lacks the inspiration and purpose that could’ve elevated it above the generic kiddie-fare you expect it to be, and is. Sony played it safe by hiring five screenwriters who’ve made a career out of constructing silly kid-flicks that play well for a few weeks at the box office, remain fairly reliable in the home video market, but are beloved by no one (i.e. Shrek 2, Daddy Day Camp, Are We There Yet?, The Rugrats Movie).

The approach is promising: turn the hand-drawn blue cuties and their secret mushroom society into colorful and lively CGI creations, and then place them in the real world with real people. This mix opens the possibilities, as the primary “Smurfs in the City” narrative suggests.

What the studio missed was an opportunity for a subversive-yet-safe approach with unconventional (yet talented) screenwriters that would play to the sensibilities of adults and kids and even hipsters alike (like what we get from the best of The Muppets or Looney Tunes). What we’re left with for wit is leaning on the patented use of the word smurf in lieu of many adjectives, verbs, adverbs and even profanities that, while admittedly clever, is then milked ad nauseam to the point of utter desperation.

On the run in their own world from the evil sorcerer Gargamel (Hank AzariaNight at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian) and his cat Azrael (a digitally enhanced real-life feline), a few of the core Smurfs—Papa, Clumsy, Grouchy, Brainy, Gutsy and Smurfette—get sucked into an aquatic vortex (and Gargamel along with them) that hurls them from their magical utopia and out into New York City on the other side.