Buy It Now

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.

19 thoughts on “Buy It Now

  1. CapnPlanet

    Agree with almost everything you said (I haven’t seen the Smurfs movie but I’m not surprised in the slightest to hear that it’s awful).

    I would like to point out, however, that Mary Poppins mixes live action and animation, and needless to say it is awesome. It is from a different era, though.

    1. Okay, I give you Mary Poppins, which is not only awesome, but one of my all time favourite films. Perhaps I need to add an addendum – no mix of live action and animation as long as it has something to do with an old TV show. Shudder.

  2. CapnPlanet

    Oh, and I was surprised to hear you (apparently) didn’t think much of the P&F movie. Our boys have been watching a lot of P&F lately and I totally love it. Does the movie not live up to the series?

    1. I ADORE Phineas and Ferb – seriously. I think it’s an undersung gem and deserves to be on prime time. (But again, my standards are low these days so I can’t say if I’m right or just nuts.)

      The movie was okay. I didn’t bust a gut laughing like I usually do for the TV show, and none of the songs were as instantly memorable as many from the show (have you seen the episode that is the top 10 P&F songs? AWESOME.).

      1. CapnPlanet

        No. P&F is awesome. I’ll admit I’ve seen parts of some longer episodes and they didn’t have the same magic. Perhaps it’s something that just doesn’t translate well to a longer format. I think SpongeBob Squarepants is probably the same.

  3. I’m just going to assume you WEREN’T implying that the Phineas and Ferb movie wasn’t awesome, because it clearly WAS awesome. And, on the other hand, we have the Smurfs. Agh. Bleck. Hurl. It was particularly upsetting since we had PLANNED to go to the Puppets Up festival in Almonte, but it was rainy and gross so instead we did….that. I wanted to rinse out my brain.

    1. Seeing as how I have watched the Phineas and Ferb movie THREE TIMES SINCE FRIDAY, and have not yet stabbed out my eyeballs with a fork, I guess it was pretty good. Nothing P&F related could really get me down, but still I didn’t think it was as good as some of the classic episodes. Did you love it?

      In any case, it was about a million miles better than The Smurfs. Also more enjoyable than at least half the Best Picture nominees last year!

      1. CapnPLanet

        The boys have just discovered the P&F movie (now on Netflix!); we’ve watched it a couple of times, and I have to say I think it’s pretty good. I think they did a really good job (better than I would have expected) transitioning to a longer format. Good writing, consistent characters, and definitely not just a half-hour episode stretched into a feature film. I thought the songs were a bit hit and miss though; some were good, some very forgettable.

  4. I think you’re a saint of a mother for even stepping foot in a theatre playing the Smurfs movie. I hope the 8-year-old understands how you risked your very sanity for a few hours of cartoon entertainment. I’ve been feeling very thankful my kids don’t seem all that interested in the Smurfs. Hana thinks they look weird and I’ve made a point of whole-heartedly agreeing with her.

    1. Hilarious side story: while Sir Monkeypants was putting the Captain to bed last night, they had this conversation:

      Sir Monkeypants: How was The Smurfs? Because you know Mommy says that all movies that mix animation and real life are crappy.

      Captain: I think this could be the movie that changes her mind.

      Later when my husband told me about this I had, seriously, the biggest belly laugh of my entire life. I still chuckle when I think about it. WAY OFF BASE, BUDDY.

      1. CapnPlanet

        Hilarious! I love it when they bounce your idioms back at you – not completely getting the subtext, but still somehow nailing the context.

  5. Ugh. I heard it was terrible but have not actually seen it – thank god my children have no interest in the Smurfs. We DID see Cars 2 and I thought it was actually weirdly violent and of course weirdly political for a children’s movie. Huh. Didn’t think about Ferraris as product placement though – because it’s not like we’re all about to go drop $400K on a car.

  6. I am so glad I read this post so that I won’t go see the movie now – it sounds just dreadful. Too bad though because I kinda liked the smurfs in their day.

  7. So you know I love Phineas and Ferb, but would you believe I forgot to record the movie for The Abster? She was camping with my Mom (because Mike and I won’t go hahaha) and made me promise that I would record it for her. She’s been back from her travels for 3 days and still hasn’t mentioned it. I’m hoping she won’t remember until they release it on dvd in a couple of weeks. Haven’t seen the Smurfs and don’t really plan on it. They’ve asked once, but we managed to put them off with other fun stuff.

  8. Um, my kids won’t even GO to the movies. Like, not step foot in the movie theater. Because they are scared. Of…who knows.

    So I’ve been spared from kids’ movies and the marketing, but…but…I feel robbed! I’m not getting the experience of children begging me for random crap that I was promised as an expectant mother!

  9. The Smurfs movie sounds really tacky and I agree that the whole animation combined with live action doesn’t usually work out too well!

    The old Smurfs TV show was cute! They should have kept it in that style! 🙂

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