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Review: 'The Smurfs' 4K UHD is a new family favorite

Posted Tuesday, March 28, 2017 at 5:36 PM Central

by John Couture

I will admit, when The Smurfs originally came out, I was skeptical. I grew up on the TV series and like everything else that Hollywood was robbed from my childhood, I was sure they would ruin it.

It took me several years, but I finally watched it and like many of our greatest fears, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, I rather enjoyed it and the mix of live action and computer animation wasn't as jarring as I expected it to be. A big reason for this was the performance of Neil Patrick Harris and his comic timing that really sold the mix between the two styles.

As for the fear of my childhood being destroyed, the reality is that this was almost a completely new thing as the live action added an element that was never present in a Smurfs offering before. That being said, it wasn't all puppy dogs and rainbows. I did not care for Hank Azaria's portrayal of Gargamel despite my usual enjoyment of his work.

Now that my kids have gotten to the age that they enjoy animated films, I have been waiting for an excuse to introduce them to The Smurfs' films. They have tackled the original TV series and they love it, but I was hesitant to show them the films given the different elements. Of course, it dawns on me now that my cause for concern was misplaced as kids are pretty good at adapting and they don't have 20 years of expectations with which to judge these films.

The 4K UHD Blu-ray version of The Smurfs was the perfect opportunity to introduce my kids to this live-action/animated mish-mash. The result was even more unexpected as it seemed that they enjoyed the film even more than the original TV series. They whooped and hollered at spots where I simply guffawed years earlier.

In many ways, not only was I seeing the film through the untarnished filter of 4K for the first time but also through the innocence of youth. It really gave me a new appreciation for a film that I never thought I would have any interest to watch again.

As for the 4K transfer, it really does showcase the film in a way that the filmmakers intended. Given that the original film was released during the height of the 3D craze, the original Blu-ray had several artifacts and tell tales of that format that stuck out like a sore thumb. Many of them have been corrected with the 4K UHD and the film really does look better than it has ever looked at home.

The special features included on the Blu-ray in this combo pack are the same features that were released with the original Blu-ray, so there really isn't any new content here. On the 4K UHD, there is something called "Moments" which is new, but it is really just a collection of scenes grouped by characters. It's definitely interesting but doesn't really add much to the experience.

No, the real selling point here is the better visuals and audio via the Dolby Atmos soundtrack. In a world where you are trying to sell live-action alongside animation, the higher the quality, the better. With the 4K UHD, the illusion comes pretty darn close to reality.

And the best trick of all? It allowed me to share a fond part of my childhood with my own children. The release of The Smurfs on 4K UHD is also timely as it corresponds with next week's release of Smurfs: The Lost Village at theaters. With the third big-screen adaptation, Sony is going back to the franchise's roots with a fully animated film. I, for one, can't wait for the 4K UHD version of it later this year.