The flimsy plot transplants the “little blue people, three apples high” from the safety of Smurf Village to the towering skyscrapers of Manhattan.
In this bustling metropolis, Papa Smurf and his kin go largely unnoticed by locals and tourists, even when they are riding atop yellow taxis through neon-laden Times Square.
In an age of omnipresent CCTV cameras, smartphones and social media, it seems inconceivable that the internet wouldn’t be abuzz with footage of a new species on the city streets.
Suspensions of disbelief aside - and there are plenty in Raja Gosnell’s film - most of the comedy is aimed at younger audiences, such as when evil wizard Gargamel inspects a portable loo, thinking it to be a cauldron, and rushes out choking, “Somebody has been working dark and terrible magic in there.”
The four scriptwriters throw in random pop culture references for older viewers, such as an exchange between Gargamel and his cat Azrael borrowed from Brokeback Mountain, and Smurfette recreating Marilyn Monroe’s iconic steam vent pose from The Seven Year Itch.
As the Blue Moon Festival approaches, Papa Smurf (voiced by Jonathan Winters) experiences a horrifying vision of arch-nemesis Gargamel (Hank Azaria) imprisoning the entire Smurf village in cages and lovable Clumsy (Anton Yelchin) fumbling a dragon-shaped wand that could save the Smurfs from their grim fate.
Soon after, Clumsy accidentally leads Gargamel and his cat Azrael to the village and the Smurfs flee for their lives.
Papa, Smurfette (Katy Perry), Clumsy, Brainy (Fred Armisen), Gutsy (Alan Cumming) and Grouchy (George Lopez) stumble upon a portal, which sucks them into present-day New York.
“I don’t think we’re in Smurf Village anymore,” whimpers Smurfette.
Luckily, kind advertising executive Patrick Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris) and his pregnant wife Grace (Jayma Mays) are on hand to help the Smurfs return to their village.
Meanwhile, Gargamel gives chase through the portal and uses his dark arts to track down his diminutive prey.
The Smurfs 3D recycles the fish-out-of-water plot of Alvin And The Chipmunks and doesn’t have any original ideas about what to do with the tiny characters once they are at large among us.
Harris and Mays are both endearing in thankless roles and the vocal performances are solid though unremarkable, including a self-referential moment for Perry when Smurfette coos, “I kissed a girl... and I liked it!”
Azaria is camp rather than menacing.
The Smurfs 3D doesn’t benefit at all from the eye-popping format, so if childhood nostalgia compels you to see Gosnell’s film, opt for the cheaper 2D version.
By Damon Smith
:: NO SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 5/10
Released: August 10 (UK & Ireland), 102 mins