Yesterday I took the kids to the movies. It was between Winnie The Pooh, which I knew my four-year-old would love, and The Smurfs, which my eight-year-old was pulling for. In the end, The Smurfs fit better into our schedule for the day, and the older two kids convinced the youngest that Gargamel wasn’t really very scary, and so off we went.
I knew it was going to be bad. I have a personal rule about movies that mix animation and live-action – AVOID. I knew what I was in for. It certainly lived up to expectations – it’s possibly the worst movie I have ever seen. And that’s saying something, as my standards for movie quality have really gone down since I had the kids – I have recently enjoyed, for example, such timeless titles as Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure and Phineas and Ferb: Across The Second Dimension. Ah, those were good times.
So The Smurfs, despite the presence of Neil Patrick Harris (I weep, weep that Hollywood can’t find anything better for him to do) and the super cute Jayma Mays (who at least gets to wear some very nice outfits), is terrible. As a movie.
But it’s sadly successful at being one giant commercial.
If you haven’t been yet, and plan to take the kids, keep an eye out for all the product placements. You won’t really have to concentrate too hard. Almost every scene has something in it. The guy sits down at his computer and the logo is promenently displayed. The Smurfs ride on top of a taxi which has an ad on top, meaning the ad becomes the backdrop for the entire scene. Camera pans of Times Square not only linger on giant billboards, but the Smurfs point them out and comment on them.
There’s one scene set in a toy store where one of the Smurfs lands in a bowl of candy – I can’t say which one as I’m totally grossed out by their marketing tactics. Not only does he taste the candy and comment on its deliciousness, but there is a giant stuffed version of the candy sitting nearby that becomes part of its own subplot. Gross.
Another scene that features a video game is supposed to be a humourous break from the action, but five long minutes of characters talking about how awesome the game is, how fun, how relaxing, how excellent, and you start to wonder if you’re watching a movie or one big ad.
I guess I have been spoiled in the past by Pixar and Disney films, which I wouldn’t have said were above product placement really, but compared to this film, come off like marketing saints. I guess Disney films are kind of like one big ad for themselves – there’s always a ton of associated merchandise to buy – but I don’t know, it goes down easier. And maybe it’s harder to put product placements in animated films, which are often set under the sea or in the desert or in a forest, where an animated Sony VAIO laptop would kind of stick out.
After watching Cars 2, Sir Monkeypants and I had a huge debate about whether or not Ferrari paid to have their car mentioned so many times, and with such reverence, in both of the Cars films. Sir Monkeypants felt that it was a paid placement, and a blatant one. But that seems mild to me now – at least it was part of the story and part of the characters. This stuff in the The Smurfs was just so…slimy. I mean, it’s not like my kids are going to pester me to pick up a Ferrari next time we’re at Toys R Us. But they’re already asking for that candy they saw in The Smurfs. You know, the one that was so funny? When he fell in the bowl? can we get some?
GROSS. I actually paid for that crap.
Am I out of touch? I must admit it’s been years since I saw a big summer tentpole movie. Maybe Transformers and Thor and Green Lantern were all like this – smothered in products. Maybe The Smurfs is just the same as any other big budget movie appearing in theatres today, even the ones for kids.
But I really, really hope not.