Less-known Christmas films: The Smurfs – A Christmas Carol

We continue to trawl the DVD bargain bins hunting for overlooked Christmas films. Today? The Smurfs do A Christmas Carol.

Merry Smurfin’ Christmas. Nothing says Christmas like tiny blue creatures performing public domain classics. It’s not as if any other children’s franchise has done that, apart from The Real Ghostbusters, The Muppets, Mickey Mouse, Mister Magoo, Brer Rabbit, Bugs Bunny, The Flintstones, Sesame Street, hundreds of straight to video knock offs featuring anthropomorphic animals, and an animated adaptation featuring Nicolas Cage (yes, that happened).

Then we have the straight adaptations, such as the Alistair Sim classic, Patrick Stewart’s one man show, or any of the other hundred. There are reimaginings galore, including the brilliant Scrooged, Frasier as a singing Scrooge and Ross Kemp himself as TV-smashing leg-breaking loan shark Eddie Scrooge. Don’t forget Paul Oakenfold’s urban remix, which doesn’t even make sense as a concept but apparently exists.

Still, room for one more, eh? Serves Dickens right for making me read Great Expectations as a homework over the summer holiday when I was 13, and then making me feel guilty when I didn’t do it and just watched the South Park version instead. Did South Park do A Christmas Carol? Where Cartman is Scrooge and all the ghosts are Kenny? I need to stop drinking so heavily during the festive season, it’s turning me quite peculiar. Dickens is a hack, which is why to this day he is still dead.

The first thing you notice here is that this is a much grittier film than the U rating might suggest. A dim blue glow illuminates the screen, as a man (possibly blue himself, the lighting renders distinguishing betwixt human and smurf a fool’s errand) is searched for possible heroin paraphernalia as another creature yells on, presumably intoxicated.

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Wait, I haven’t started the DVD yet, that was Police Interceptors. I might just watch that instead.

You see Grouchy Smurf on the cover? That’s me watching this. There’s nothing wrong with being grouchy when you’re surrounded by incompetents. A Christmas Carol? More like A Christmas Sensible. Just look at the back of the DVD box. It doesn’t even list animated menus as a special feature for Smurf’s sake. It’s in colour though, so at least I’ll know which ones are blue. 22 minutes? Excellent, that’s only half a toilet break The DVD is loose in the case. I know I can’t really criticise the film for that but I’m just that good. Damn, the thing isn’t scratched beyond repair.

By the way, I should say that I actually love Christmas, and I’m indifferent to the Smurfs. It’s just you know this is going to be crap, right? I love Christmas, but it doesn’t mean I love any old crap with a bow on it (hello, The Santa Clause 2 and 3).

Ha, the DVD opens with “by purchasing this DVD you are supporting the British film industry, thank you!” Joke’s on you disc, I didn’t buy you, I got sent this. Also, there is a menu. I might watch it in Flemish just for a laugh.

So before I get down to watching this short (I’m stalling, you see), I should talk about the production. You see, after the middling success of the first Smurfs reboot, this Christmas special was hastily rushed out of the door, because that’s what Shrek did and it worked out okay for him. Alas, not all of the original cast could reprise their roles. Katy Perry was too busy to contribute the three minutes of voiceover work and was replaced with… someone cheap. Jonathan Winters was unable to rise from the dead to voice Papa Smurf, so one of the original cast from the 80s came back. Inexplicably, they could still get Anton Yelchin and Hank Azaria.

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Sigh, I’d better watch it, hadn’t I?

“Smurf the halls with boughs of holly” sing the Smurfs. This thing writes itself. A few carols with random words replaced by Smurf, and a montage of decorating. Hey, this might not be so bad.

But no, there’s a problem! Grouchy Smurf hasn’t got his regulation Christmas lights up, and he’s busy complaining about them singing off key. You see, despite apparently doing all the regular Christmas stuff every year, this year he hates Christmas. Look, I know this isn’t high drama, but please don’t introduce plot holes in the first minute with a throwaway line of dialogue that wasn’t even in the thing you’re adapting. Anton Yelchin’s been through that on two Star Trek movies, give the guy a break.

Obviously, he can’t do something different to everyone else, so they decide to forcibly rewire his emotions by using magic. Bit extreme isn’t it? Couldn’t they just, you know, talk to him? Offer him a few glasses of homesmurfbrew and a date with Smurfette? No, they immediately go with the mindwarp. The magic spikes his Smurfberrynog like some sort of Smurfhypnol and before you can say “restricted budget” it has robbed him of one of his dimensions. Yes, it’s The Smurfs… in 2D! Hand drawn too. You’ve got to hand it to them, at least they made the effort. It does look the part.

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Smurfette turns up. Okay, it’s not really Smurfette, it’s the Smurf of Christmas Past, but let’s not worry about reusing character models, it’s Christmas. After Grouchy complains that she might be indigestion (while somehow failing to include any of the lines about underdone potatoes), she sends him back in time to show him that he used to love Christmas. Last year. You know, rather than magic ghosts a simply ‘what’s wrong hun?’ on Smurfbook might have done the trick.

That’s the excuse for… another decorating montage! Also, weirdly, he’s called Grouchy even before he’s actually grouchy, which doesn’t make sense. In any case, we see everyone being an absolute dick to him by barging into him and burying him against his will, but he brushes it off with good humour. And then we see the perfectly reasonable explanation why he hates Christmas in Smurftown: every year all they get is a sodding new hat.

What he actually wants is a hang glider and every year he gets the same hat. One year he nearly gets one, but it’s a joke. In the hang glider shaped present there are explosives which give him third degree burns. The other Smurfs think this crippling emotional and physical pain is hilarious.

In compensation, the Smurf of Christmas Past lets him ride her like a hanglider. I’m not even joking.

Inevitably, she drops him, and he drops right into Brainy, I mean the Smurf of Christmas Present. Naturally, he berates him for being late. Why isn’t Grouchy going mad and killing everyone by this point? The Smurf of Christmas Present’s first role is to show how badly Grouchy is needed for Christmas. You see, rather than having no impact except there being slightly more turkey left over, in fact without Grouchy… the whole Smurf village will burn down. Yes, through a series of freak accidents and dodgy electrical wiring, every single decoration, all the stockings and the tree itself will either catch fire or explode.

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Now we see Papa Smurf making his damn hats. Despite repeated requests to stop using the entire supply of cloth each year to make damn hats people don’t need, he still thinks he’s doing everyone a favour. The fact that they’re custom made makes them special, apparently. Papa Smurf is a bloody hypocrite; why is he the only one allowed to have a red hat? Because he’s a big smurf bastard, that’s why.

Imagine this in real life – it’s like if that weird uncle of yours keeps sending you the same pair of black socks each year, and then your parents make you write a thank you card in case his house blows up. But worse, your uncle makes experimental hoverboards, jetpacks and chocolate for a living. That reminds me, I must get my nieces some socks.

Next up, the Smurf of Christmas Future. Not Hefty, no sir. His vision is of nothing less than a Smurfolocaust. Because Grouchy selfishly wanted a Christmas present he actually wanted, the other Smurfs went out to get him one, and all got Smurfnapped by Gargamel.

Eventually, after a few hijinks with a cat, we see the endgame for this drugged up hallucination he’s being forced to endure. The moral he is being forced to accept is that if you so much as dare want a present at Christmas you’ll like, your house will burn down, your family will be imprisoned and you will be boiled alive in a giant pot. These Smurfs have some serious relationship issues. Imagine the fuss when Smurfette decides she doesn’t want to service the men folk anymore. “No, sorry, Smurfette must put out, so we’ll put this magic in her coffee and guilt trip her into doing all that stuff she thinks is weird and gross”.

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Or, as it turns out, the moral is about the real gift being family. Not the actual moral of any of the visions. Grumpy is taking this brainwashing remarkably well. If the moral of the story is that family is great, I don’t want that sodding family. It’s like having Christmas at Fred West’s house, but without the nice garden.

In one final gesture of dickery, Papa Smurf gives him a hat, and makes Grouchy turn his toy hang glider into a star for the tree, out of spite. I hate these smurfs and hope they all burn down. But, in a twist, the hat is also a hang glider.

Grouchy Smurf has one go on it and gets bored, which I suppose is the most realistic thing about the film. Grouchy Smurf still hates Christmas… is only once a year. The End. Roll credits.

It took me longer to write this review than it took them to write that short, but at least mine doesn’t threaten your family.