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4K UHD/Blu-ray Review: THE SMURFS

Mar 30 Posted by in DVD/Blu-ray, Reviews | Comments

The Smurfs are happy little blue magical creatures who live in a hidden village in the middle of the woods. Today the Smurfs are being their typical cheery little selves, singing while decorating for the upcoming Blue Moon Festival. Clumsy (Anton Yelchin), true to his name, seems to have a knack for always messing things up, so the other Smurfs send him away while they finish the preparations. Despite Papa’s (Jonathan Winters) request not to do so, Clumsy decides to pick Smurf roots on the outskirts of town, where he is seen by the evil wizard Gargarmel (Hank Azaria) and his pet cat Azriel, accidentally revealing the secret location of Smurf Village. He runs back into town to warn the others, but it’s too late, as Gargamel is already there. This sends the Smurfs into a panic and they all scatter. In his haste to get away, Clumsy accidentally leads a small group of the Smurfs down a dangerous path towards the Forbidden Falls. It looks like they have been cornered by Gargamel, but the Smurfs manage to escape through a whirlpool-like portal, and find themselves in New York City, with Gargamel still in pursuit.

Now these six Smurfs—Papa, Clumsy, Gutsy (Alan Cumming), Smurfette (Katy Perry), Brainy (Fred Armisen) and Grouchy (George Lopez)—are trapped in this strange new world, until they can find a way to “smurf” up another portal back home. And it’s not long before Clumsy once again finds himself in trouble, accidentally falling into a box of papers belonging to ad executive Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris). So the group make their way to Patrick’s apartment to rescue Clumsy. Their presence is a bit of a shock to Patrick and his pregnant wife Grace (Jayma Mays), but they offer the Smurfs a place to stay and some assistance in their quest. Meanwhile, Patrick has his own quest—he only has 2 days to come up with an ad campaign to impress his demanding boss Odile (Sofia Vergara). As the Smurfs look for a way home, Garagmel is already scheming up ways to find/capture them and utilize their Smurf power for evil.
 

I have seen this film many times, and I still thoroughly enjoy it every time. The Smurfs’ never-ending joy, innocence and happiness is infectious, and one can’t help but smile while watching their antics. Gargamel is an over-the-top cartoon villain with his grandiose schemes, ominous cackle, and disgruntled sidekick Azriel. Hank Azaria often steals the scene with his delightfully campy performance as Gargamel, which adds a lot of physical humor to the film. And there is a lot of fun human interaction between the Smurfs and the human characters. There is one scene where Patrick is desperately trying to get his work done, so the Smurfs figure they’ll help by giving him a happy “La La, La La La La” tune to work by—which, of course, does not help matters.

The film’s writing is quite clever. There are lots of fun nods to fans of the franchise—whether it’s cameos of familiar Smurfs like Jokey with his exploding package or Vanity with his mirror; showing how Azriel got the notch in his ear, and more. I also love the way the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, invoking a lot of self-referential humor. The film opens with Reader Smurf doing his movie-trailer like narration of the events as they unfold on screen. In another scene, Patrick calls the Smurfs out on their constant use of the word smurf as a noun, verb and adjective. And Gargamel has a fun scene where he sarcastically points out how it’s not weird that there’s 99 male Smurfs and only one female Smurf. There are also many fun running gags, such as Gargamel using Azriel as his test canary, calling out “Azriel, are you dead?”; and a recurring bit with the Smurfs traveling on top of a taxi, blending into the blue-themed ads on top of the vehicles.

Not only does the film have a fun, entertaining story and characters, but the special effects are fantastic—it really feels like these little blue creatures are actually in the real world and interacting with people and objects.
 

The Smurfs had previously been available on 2D & 3D Blu-ray, but this new 4K UHD release of the film features a new 4K picture and Dolby Atmos soundtrack. The picture quality of the UHD looks amazing. Compared to the Blu-ray release, there is so much more detail—you can see every pore, wrinkle and slight expression on the characters’ faces, and every one of the sunspots Gargamel’s head. The detail on clothing and textiles is also much more defined—you can see every thread detail in the Smurfs’ hats, Patrick’s sports jacket, Gargamel’s robe, Patrick & Grace’s furniture, etc. Colors look richer and more vibrant, and the scenes of the city look absolutely stunning—such as when the Smurfs first climb up a rock and see Central Park for the first time, and later in candle-lit scene in Patrick’s family room.

While I was really impressed with the picture on a whole, there was a single scene that stood out to me as a negative, and worse than Blu-ray. This was the scene where Gargamel is showing off his magical abilities, giving Odile’s mother a youthful makeover. On the UHD release, there is this static all over Odile’s mother before and during the effect. It almost looks like a bad upconvert of a low-def effect. The scene looks very unnatural and broadcasts that there’s some kind of transformation about to happen. I went back and watched the Blu-ray, and while this special effect looks a bit blurry, it feels more natural—there is none of this strange static on the screen. That said, this was the only blemish on an otherwise steller visual presentation.

The Dolby Atmos soundtrack is also quite impressive, providing a fully-immersive experience throughout the film. The overhead effects are constantly utilized—from Smurfs flying through the air at the opening of the film, to a massive storm brewing in the sky at the end of the film. Near the beginning of the film, as Gargamel makes his way into Smurf Village, the viewer is surrounded by the rich, full sound of the panicking Smurfs in all directions, and as the vortex opens there is the sound of rushing water overhead and rumbling of the subwoofer as the Smurfs are transported. Throughout the film the dialogue is clear, music is pleasant, and the audio channels are well-utilized to add direction and motion to the action on screen.

While this release contains a solid selection of bonus material, all of it has been ported from the previous Blu-ray release. This supplemental material, which only appears on the Blu-ray disc, includes a second-screen experience, and adventure game, two feature commentaries, five deleted/extended scenes, four behind-the-scenes featurettes, two bloopers, and a short music montage. The only bonus feature on the UHD disc is the “Moments” menu which provides four collections of themed scenes.

The 4K UHD release comes packed in standard keepcase with a slipcover, and contains an insert with a code to redeem for an UltraViolet copy of the film. Unlike most of Sony’s other recent non-catalog UHD releases, the digital copy only redeems in HD, not 4K.



What’s Included:

Film: (1:42:44)

    4K Ultra HD:

    • 2160p / Widescreen 1.78:1
    • HDR
    • Audio: English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Compatible), English Audio Descriptive Service, Catalan 5.1, French (Parisian) 5.1, French (Quebec) 5.1, German 5.1, Italian 5.1, Portuguese 5.1, Spanish (Castilian) 5.1, Spanish (Latin American) 5.1
    • Subtitles: English, English SDH, Arabic, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese *Brazil), Portuguese (Portugal), Russian, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin American), Swedish, Thai, Turkish

    Blu-ray:

    • 1080p / Widescreen 1.78:1
    • Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Descriptive Audio, Cantonese 5.1, French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Korean 5.1, Mandarin 5.1, Mandarin-PRC 5.1, Spanish 5.1, Thai 5.1
    • Subtitles: English, English SDH, Cantonese, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, French, Korean, Spanish, Thai

    Digital HD (Redemption Deadline 12/31/19):

    • UltraViolet Digital HD copy redeemable via Sony

Extras:
All of the bonus features are exclusively available on the included Blu-ray disc, which is the same as the previous stand-alone release. The 4K UHD disc contains no bonus material, except for a “Moments” menu which provides four collections of themed scenes—”Gargamel & Azrael” (6:03), “Memorable Moments” (5:35), “Smurfy Moments” (8:05) and “Magic” (6:51).

  • Smurf-O-Vision: Second Screen Experience (1:43:50)
    Download the free Smurf-O-Vision app from the iTunes store and enjoy an interactive second screen experience on your iPhone or iPad while watching the film. The experience can be synced either via WiFi or manually, or you even can watch the second screen experience without a second screen, with the material merged along with the film on your TV.
  • What is Smurf-O-Vision Second Screen? (1:21)
    Video describing the Smurf-O-Vision Second Screen experience
  • The Smurfs Fantastic Adventure Game
    Three level game that can be played on your TV using your remote control. In the first two levels, “Smurf Village” and “Central Park”, you try to collect the most Smurfberries while pressing Left and Right to make Clumsy run and Enter to make him jump. In the final level, “Gargamel’s Laboratory”, press Enter to throw Smurfberries at targets until they blow up while also trying to avoid being trapped by the cage. The game offers both a Story Mode or an Arcade Mode.
  • Commentaries
      A pair of entertaining and informative feature commentaries. The participants provide interesting insight into the production process, explain how things changed/evolved over time, talk about what went into making the film, and provide some interesting behind-the-scenes tidbits.

    • Commentary with Director Raja Gosnell (1:42:43)
    • Commentary with Producer Jordan Kerner, Writers J. David Stem & David N. Weiss and Jay Scherick & David Ronn, and VFX Supervisor Richard Hoover (1:42:43)
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes (7:41)
    A fun collection of five deleted/extended scenes. Play All or select from “Goat Man”, “Gargamel Throws Azrael Through Door”, “Gargamel Enters FAO Schwarz”, “Girl Talk — Extended”, and “Original Lullaby”.
  • The Smurfs: Comic Book to the Big Screen (8:15)
    An interesting look at taking the Smurfs from their 2D origins and making them interact with the 3D world. Some of the topics include determining how the Smurfs should move, making the “Smurf Blue” skin color look and feel natural, and making each of the different Smurfs all feel unique. Includes some early animation tests, behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with producer Jordan Kerner, CG character designer Allen Battino, SPI senior animation director Troy Saliba, SPI digital FX supervisor Daniel Kramer, VFX supervisor Richard R. Hoover, director Raja Gosnell, CG supervisor Karl Herbst, director of photography Phil Meheux, production designer Bill Boes, and actor Neil Patrick Harris (“Patrick Winslow”).
  • Smurf Speak: Meet the Cast (9:26)
    The cast and creators talk about casting the characters and determining the proper voices for each of the Smurfs. Includes behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with director Raja Gosnell, producer Jordan Kerner, and actors Jonathan Winters (“Papa Smurf”), Anton Yelchin (“Clumsy”), Katy Perry (“Smurfette”), Alan Cumming (“Gutsy”), George Lopez (“Grouchy”) and Fred Armisen (“Brainy”).
  • Going Gargamel (9:57)
    The cast and creators talk about the portrayal of Gargamel and Azriel in the film. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, a look at the costume and make-up process, and interviews with director Raja Gosnell, writers Jay Scheric & David Ronn and J. David Stem & David N. Weiss, producer Jordan Kerner, animal trainer Larry Madrid, and actors Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays (“Grace Winslow”) and Hank Azaria (“Gargamel”).
  • Blue-Pers (0:25)
    Two very short bloopers with the Smurfs.
  • Happy Music Montage (1:49)
    Montage of clips set to music.
  • Progression Reels (9:14)
    These narrated featurettes show the various layers of effects needed to bring the film to life, from creating and lighting the 3D characters, to creating Smurf Village, allowing the Smurfs to interact with the real world, and animating the magical portal between the two worlds. Play All or select from “Smurf-olution”, “Growing a Village: Generating Complexity for a Smurf-Sized World”, “Building and Lighting a CG Smurf”, “Image-Based Set Reconstruction and Lighting”, and “Anatomy of a Portal: Effects and Lighting”.
  • Previews
    Select from trailers for “Arthur Christmas”, The Pirates! Band of Misfits”, “Zookeeper”, “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs”, “Surf’s Up”, and “Open Season”.

 


Final Thoughts:

My Rating
Film:
Video:
Audio:
Extras:
Highly Recommended

The Smurfs is a delightful film that still provides lots of laughs with every re-watch. Sony’s new 4K UHD release of the film looks and sounds phenomenal. The new 4K presentation provides richer colors and even greater detailed picture. And the new Dolby Atmos soundtack makes excellent use of all of the channels, and overhead speakers to provide an extremely immersive viewing experience. All of the bonus features have been ported over from the previous Blu-ray release, but no new supplemental material has been added. The release also includes an Ultraviolet HD copy of the film. This release comes highly recommended based on the entertainment value of the film and stellar technical presentation.