For those who have viewed the commercials, even a passable big-screen The Smurfs will seem like a miracle. But this is the rare movie where the worst parts are in the promos. Parents who drew the short straw will be pleased to find that the movie isn't god-awful. It's refreshingly mediocre. Put that blurb on the DVD jacket.
The Smurfs begins in a small village, a live-action version of the psychedelic-looking world from the popular comics and Saturday morning cartoons. A vortex pulls the animated Papa Smurf, Clumsy Smurf, Smurfette and others into Central Park, they meet marketing pro Patrick Winslow (Harris), wreck his house, destroy - then save - his career, and get pursued by evil forces for reasons that never make sense. In other words, it's just like an "Alvin and the Chipmunks" film.
A suggestion for adult chaperones: Find excuses to leave (more popcorn, meter-feeding, a game of Angry Birds in the lobby . . .) anytime the scheming wizard Gargamel comes on screen. Hidden under prosthetics, Hank Azaria compensates for his lack of good lines and repulsive makeup by overacting.
The Smurfs gets better from there. There's a sporadic wit - jokes are plentiful about the 99-1 male/female ratio in Smurfland.
Harris, mostly acting against Marshmallow Peep-sized animated creations, is convincing and likable throughout. No doubt he will poke fun at his participation in this film the next time he's hosting an awards show, but don't be fooled. It takes a good actor to save a bad movie.