Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Smurfs 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
The original Smurfs cinematic adventure will be on 4K Ultra HD disc for the first time, just in time for the theatrical release of Smurfs: The Lost Village. Boasting an all-star cast including Neil Patrick Harris (“How I Met Your Mother,” Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs), Hank Azaria (“The Simpsons,” Happy Feet 2), Sofia Vergara (“Modern Family,” Chef), and more – see what happens when the Smurfs leave their world of enchantment and invade NYC. Presented in full 2160p 4K resolution with High Dynamic Range and Dolby Atmos audio – add this family classic to your collection.

Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The Smurfs are blue creatures that stand three apples tall. They live in a hidden village and live in houses made from oversized mushrooms. Their only enemies are an evil wizard named Gargamel (Hank Azaria) and his cat Azrael. Each Smurf is named for their primary characteristic. Narrator Smurf provides constant voiceover play by play of any situation. Vanity Smurf spends his days admiring his reflection. All Smurfs are male with the exception of Smurfette (voiced by Katy Perry), who was created by Gargamel as a trap, but has been accepted into the Smurf family.

When Clumsy Smurf (voiced by Anton Yelchin) leads Gargamel and Azrael through the invisible barrier hiding their village, the Smurfs scatter. Clumsy heads the wrong direction out of town ignoring numerous warning signs. Papa Smurf (voiced by Jonathan Winters), Brainy Smurf (voiced by Fred Armisen), Gutsy Smurf (voiced by Alan Cumming) and Grouchy Smurf (voiced by George Lopez) follow Clumsy and end up traveling through a magic portal to New York City.

New York City is a completely foreign environment for the Smurfs. Clumsy falls into a box and ends up in the home of advertising executive Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and his pregnant wife Grace (Jayma Mays). Once again, the other Smurfs follow Clumsy.  Once they retrieve their friend, they will need to figure out how to re-open the portal and travel home. Unfortunately Gargamel and Azreal used the same portal and will pursue the Smurfs in the big city.

The Smurfs are a love it or hate it kind of thing. Nothing about this film will change the mind of a Smurf-hater. The filmmakers took great care to make their blue-skin look realistic. It would have been very easy for them to end up looking like a bunch of toys running around the city. The interaction between computer generated characters and the real world is done well. It is less than believable when Patrick or Grace hold or hug the Smurfs, but that’s to be expected. Having Gargamel be a real person (not CGI) was a good move and casting Hank Azaria was an even better choice. The smurf level of detail gives them a great deal of subtlety of emotion that really helps make the audience feel for the characters as if they were real. Although Patrick and Grace adapt to the existence of Smurfs with record speed they also ask expected questions like why do they use the word smurf all the time? To the smurf haters, that’s always been a particularly sore subject.
Video (5 out of 5 stars)
The Smurfs looks fantastic on both Blu-ray and in 4K ultra high definition (UHD). Sony routinely provides a consistently exceptional product. On both formats the colors are bold and vibrant. The Smurf blue really pops and amazingly doesn’t feel artificial. There is a significant amount of fine detail to notice, just on the Smurf’s faces. They have wrinkles, skin imperfections, and even tiny hairs that you can pick up. When comparing the two formats you’ll see better color saturation with the 2160p upgrade. Some of the darker fabrics like Gargamel’s robe show better in UHD. Although clarity and more is improved with the 4K, I can’t give the Blu-ray any less than a five.
Audio (5 out of 5 stars)
The Smurfs' Blu-ray offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that fairs very well. The 4K upgrade to Dolby Atmos is most apparent in immersion and use of all channels. The soundtrack is fun and light for most of the film but also dark and treacherous when danger approaches. As with the audio presentation, there is a definite upgrade with 4K but you shouldn’t feel you missed much when listening to the Blu-ray. In both formats, dialogue is intelligible and clarity and ambience are excellent.
Extras (3 out of 5 stars)
The 4K UHD disc contains a ‘Cast & Crew’ tab with still photos and accompanying Smurf talk, as well as ‘Moments’. All other supplemental features are found on the Blu-ray disc.
  • Smurf-O-Vision:  Second Screen Experience – A commercial for the free Smurf-O-Vision app which allows for a two screen interactive viewing experience, followed by the option to turn it on with manual or Wi-Fi sync.
  • The Smurfs Fantastic Adventure Game – Rescue Papa Smurf from Gargamel in either story mode or arcade mode.
  • Commentaries:
    • Audio commentary from Director Raja Gosnell in which he discusses shooting, directing computer generated characters and locations, scheduling and more.  Well worth the time to listen.
    • Audio commentary from Producer Jordan Kerner, Writers J. David Stem & David N. Weiss and Jay Scherick & David Ronn, and VFX Supervisor Richard Hoover. Although there is overlap of information from the Director’s commentary this is also an enjoyable track with discussion back to the 80s cartoon.
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes – Almost 8 minutes of scenes including 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 – A look back at the Eurpoean origins of the Smurfs, adapting comic pages to 3D and subtle changes to the characters. Creative ways to work within the limits of Smurf body types are discussed. Touches on efforts to please fans and create a realistic world.
  • Smurf Speak: Meet the Cast – Interviews with the primary voice cast in which they talk about their characters and their feelings about being Smurfs.
  • Going Gargamel – Hank Azaria leads the feature which looks at his ideas to make the previously annoying (his words) wizard funny. See the prosthetics and makeup application process and the difficulties with working with cats.
  • Blue-Pers – Two CGI Smurf bloopers in this feature that was extremely brief.  There had to be some funny on set moments with humans acting with digital characters to be added in post-production.
  • Happy Music Montage – Film clips set to music, lasting just under two minutes.
  • Progression Reels – Available individually or with play all function:  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 - Arthur Christmas, The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Zookeeper, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Surf’s Up and Open Season.

Summary (4 out of 5 stars)
The Smurfs is fun, energetic, and heartwarming and makes me nostalgic for the old cartoon. I love everything about the Smurfs and can overlook anything wrong with this film because they are so darn cute. It is not going to turn a Smurf hater into a fan, and is likely to make them root for team Gargamel even more. There is a good list of special features with only the blooper section lacking in content. The game is good for the young elementary school crowd. The audio and video presentations are exceptional on Blu-ray and with the 4K ultra high definition upgrade. I Smurfed this film a lot and recommend the purchase.

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