Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Smurfs: Season 1 Volume 2
TV on DVD review by Sombrero Grande

I was big into The Smurfs as a little kid. Really big. Not only did I have Smurf bedsheets and pillowcases, but all the walls of my bedroom were painted Smurf-blue. I must have had close to all of the little Smurf figurines, purchased one-at-a-time from a now long-gone department store by my grandparents' house. I still have most of them, though over the course of frequent play sessions back then I did end up loosing my fair share. I know I lost the football player Smurf somewhere at a local beach when the sandcastle in which he resided tragically collapsed and he couldn't be found in the rubble before it was time to go home. I'm sure there's a handful that are still buried in my parents' backyard, along with a fair amount of The Real Ghostbusters action figures--buried treasures that I never could re-find (lousy, quickly-drawn treasure maps!) Then there's the King Smurf figurine that fell into the toilet and my folks had to call a plumber to retrieve when in my panic I accidentally flushed it--and I still have to this day, tucked away in a shoebox with the rest of my collection.

I even had the original Smurf video game for the ColecoVision. So, when The Smurfs started getting released on DVD, needless to say, I was interested.

Here's the thing about nostalgia DVDs: sometimes you rediscover a classic piece of entertainment that stands the test of time (and age difference of its viewer), such as the Disney movie Flight of the Navigator or the classic sitcom Perfect Strangers, while the rest of the time you just sit perplexed and watch your fond memories torn asunder, leaving you to wonder what you saw in said piece of entertainment, as with The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! or Darkwing Duck.

Unfortunately, The Smurfs leans more toward the latter than the former.

While watching the episodes on the Season 1 Volume 2 DVD set, I was bored and bored rather quickly. To my adult eyes and sensibilities, the stories no longer made a lot of sense. They were too basic. In one episode, Clumsy Smurf and Smurfette are captured and placed into a wooden cage, the bars of which were drawn certainly wide enough for the characters to slip past to escape. My adult eyes couldn't forgive this as easily as my young eyes did many years ago.

For most, the most memorable thing about The Smurfs was the old opening song. "La la la la la la, la la la la la..." and so on. Well, apparently season 1 of the show did NOT have said opening, as instead the viewer is treated to a short--really short--backstory on the Smurfs narrated at the opening of each episode. And here goes: "Long, long ago, deep in the forest, there was a hidden village where tiny creatures lived. They called themselves the Smurfs. They were good. Then there was Gargamel, the evil wizard. He was bad. Well, the forest is still there, and if you listen you may hear Gargamel's rage, and if you are good, you may just catch a glimpse of the Smurfs."

From the simplicity of the "they were good; he was bad" introduction, it should be highly apparent that The Smurfs is aimed at an audience of very young children, and difficult for adults--like me--to latch back onto. There is a feeling of nostalgia to be gained by watching these episodes again after so many years, but it's fleeting and it's disheartening to see the show itself with more faults than you remember.

But it's not all a disappointment, though. There are some things that still work in favor of The Smurfs, and one is the adorable design of the characters and the bright, inviting colors that can't help but attract the eye. I began to see right away what must have really attracted my young eyes to the show, and maybe gave me a reason to have blue become my favorite color.

There's also great voice-work by some of '80s animation's top talent. The voice cast is top-notch with the likes of June Foray, Don Messick, Michael Bell, William Callaway, Hamilton Camp, Paul Winchell, Lucille Bliss, Alan Oppenheimer and many more. Theirs are voices that immediately transport one back in time upon hearing them.

The one bonus feature on this 2-DVD set is entitled: "I Smurf the Smurfs!" It's referred to on the packaging as "Memories of the Original Smurfs Era and the Lasting Impact They've Made." What it is, though, is a bunch of VH1's I Love the '80s rejects spouting only occasionally interesting memories of The Smurfs. The most interesting "celebrities" they've managed to round up include Candace Cameron Bure and JoMarie Payton, so if you've ever wanted to know what D.J. from Full House or the mom from Family Matters thinks about The Smurfs, this is for you. Some of the original voice talent for The Smurfs get a few moments to talk, but the bulk of the fast-editied documentary seems to be focused on ludicrous discussions musing about what's under a Smurf's hat or why Smurfs wear shirts but no pants. Legendary voice talent Gary Owens embarrasses himself in explaining that Smurfs keep frogs under their hats and asserting that a Smurf could have been President in the '80s due to the show's populartiy. Oh, and there's also an actress/musician named Persia White who gets a lot of screen time in this documentary and describes the Smurfs as the "original O.G.s of American ebonics" and "that Smurfette was, like, the original Snoop." Thank you, documentary. I am now dumber for having listened to that.

The most annoying aspect of the entire DVD set is the fact that the slim box the DVDs come in is surprisingly difficult to slide the DVDs out of. The folded sleeve that contains both DVDs took at least a minute for me to free from the grasp of the slim box, leading me to ponder if this was some sort of "child-proof" DVD packaging. My box didn't appear to be damaged, so I have to wonder if the sleeve within was simply designed a "smurf" too big to slide out easily.

All in all, The Smurfs Season 1 Volume 2 is a tough recommendation for adults looking for a quick hit of nostalgia. There's just simply not a lot to offer an adult viewer here. If, however, you have young kids who you want to introduce to your little blue friends from yesteryear, then give Season 1 Volume 2 a try.

With a little Sombrero on the way, I'll be hanging onto this DVD set just in case one day he finds the Smurfs as intriguing as I did when I was little. I've also got that whole shoebox full of Smurf figurines to pass along to him, though I probably won't let him play with the King Smurf too much.


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