A couple of days ago, I finally saw two films I dreaded watching: The Smurfs and The Smurfs 2. Why was I dreading these movies? Well, it definitely had something to do with critics saying the movies were terrible. So, of course, I felt like not wasting my time watching movies that “everyone” agreed weren’t worth watching.
However, me being me, I inevitably seek out movies that are generally considered to be bad. Call it a side effect of growing up with Mystery Science Theater 3000 – a 90’s Comedy Central show involving a man and two funny robots poking fun at bad movies. Occasionally, I stumble onto one that I find has some redeeming quality to it, like a very low-budget film called Warrioress, a movie with badass women executing some nice fight choreography.
Also occasionally, I finally get around to viewing a critically panned film that, while watching it, I wonder why the hell nobody liked it. Enter The Smurfs.
Sitting down in front of the screen, I expected to see a movie with horrible writing, horrible acting, and jokes that always fell flat. I expected to see a movie that made me want to remind myself to closely monitor the end credits scroll for a director named Alan Smithee (the pseudonym a director would use for a movie he/she didn’t wish to be associated with for one reason or another). But what actually occurred was something else entirely: I laughed.
And I laughed some more.
And I kept laughing, all the way through the film.
What I found was a movie filled with humor, charm, and a solid moral message. The Smurfs, themselves, are captured well in their roles. Hank Azaria does such a fantastic job disappearing into the villainous Gargamel that I didn’t even know it was him until I saw his name in the credits. Gargamel’s cat, Azrael, is just so adorably funny. And the movie stars Neil Patrick Harris, which gives it instant credibility in my mind.
Of course, after the blast I had with The Smurfs, I was hesitant to dive into The Smurfs 2. Sequels have a bad habit of not being as good as their predecessors. But dive I did and what I found was a movie equally as humorous, charming, and morally set. Once again, The Smurfs were written well. Once again, I enjoyed the banter between Gargamel and Azrael. And once again, Neil Patrick Harris = instant cred. It also helped that Britney Spears did a catchy song for this movie (Have I ever mentioned that I ❤ Britney?)
After the wonderful time I had with the two Smurfs movies, I went to Wikipedia to get a summary of the critical response to these very enjoyable films. I wanted to see if I was simply not remembering correctly what was said about them. And I ran into quotes like this:
"Beyond a few chuckle-worthy one-liners and some amusing visual comedy, there's not much to engage adults, although the wee ones should be distracted enough." – Justin Lowe, The Hollywood Reporter, The Smurfs 2: Film Review
That quote got me thinking of this thing adults do: placing themselves above children’s entertainment; as if becoming an adult means that something meant for kids can’t be funny or enjoyable (or engaging) simply because it’s meant for kids.
The Psychology 101 in me recognizes this as a natural part of a child’s development; a child seeking to enter into adulthood pushes away those things from childhood, sometimes rejecting them outright simply because those things aren’t “adult” and, therefore, not meant for them. This is what I feel is at the heart of why a movie meant for kids, such as The Smurfs, is thought of as a terrible film even though it’s actually quite fun. And even if a movie isn’t seen as terrible, it can still be branded as a movie that kids will enjoy while adults are able to tolerate it.
This gets me wondering why adults tend to feel that they’re above the things of a child. It gets me wondering why there’s a need to put away the cheap plastic, brightly colored squirt gun in favor of a paintball gun or a hunting rifle. And it gets me wondering why adults must feel separate from children as if we’re not all human beings that are simply at different stages of development.
Yes, every child must eventually cross that threshold into adulthood. But why does crossing that threshold mean that one must give up the innocent fun that comes natural with childhood? As an adult, you can enjoy the R-rated stuff, but the kiddie stuff can be enjoyed as well. That’s the advantage that growing up should offer: a greater diversity of options. However, there is a disadvantage to putting away childish things, to cutting yourself off from certain options. If you can’t let go and just have fun as you did when you were a child, then perhaps you’ve lost a shade of yourself.