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The Smurfs: The Legend of Smurfy Hollow DVD Review

The Smurfs: The Legend of Smurfy Hollow DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com The Smurfs: The Legend of Smurfy Hollow
Short & DVD Details

Director: Stephan Franck / Writers: Todd Berger; Peyo (characters & works) / Producer: Mary Ellen Bauder

Voice Cast: Jack Angel (Papa Smurf), Fred Armisen (Brainy Smurf), Hank Azaria (Gargamel), Gary Basaraba (Hefty Smurf), Alan Cumming (Gutsy Smurf), Tom Kane (Narrator Smurf), John Oliver (Vanity Smurf), Melissa Sturm (Smurfette), Frank Welker (Azrael), Adam Wylie (Panicky Smurf), Anton Yelchin (Clumsy Smurf), William Calvert, Jeff Fischer, Craig Kellman, Hans Tester

Video Premiere: September 10, 2013 / Running Time: 22 Minutes / Rating: G

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English, Spanish, French)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; Not Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: September 10, 2013 / Suggested Retail Price: $6.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / White Keepcase
Also available: The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol

Buy The Smurfs: The Legend of Smurfy Hollow on DVD at Amazon.com

Much like Fox's Alvin and the Chipmunks, Sony Pictures Animation's The Smurfs was able to convert 1980s nostalgia into moviegoer demand and entertain the masses with some unremarkable CG-aided family comedy. Though the Chipmunks were able to repeat the feat two years later with their lucrative "Squeakquel", Sony found that one live-action Smurfs movie was enough for many.
Both domestically and abroad, The Smurfs 2 grossed less than half of what its predecessor had made two summers earlier. Despite the first film's widespread critical disapproval and muted public reaction (both aligning with Alvin), the studio definitely did not see that Chipwrecked-type fallout happening so soon. They had already began scripting The Smurfs 3 back in 2012 and even scheduled a July 24, 2015 release date for the threequel.

That gives Sony just under two full years to restore some goodwill to the franchise and make those plans look less than ridiculously premature. That mission begins next Tuesday with the home video debut of The Smurfs: The Legend of Smurfy Hollow, a 22-minute short that gets its own seasonal DVD-only release at the extremely low list price of $6.99. Following in the footsteps of the Blu-ray exclusive The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol, which hits standalone DVD the same day, Smurfy Hollow obviously makes a play for Halloween sales instead of just turning up as a high-budget bonus feature or premiering on television like next month's Toy Story of Terror.

In "The Smurfs: The Legend of Smurfy Hollow", three stranded Smurfs gather around a campfire to hear Narrator Smurf tell a not so scary story. Gutsy uses this little impromptu Headless Horseman figurine to get back at a stockpiling Brainy Smurf.

Smurfy Hollow appears to follow the mold of Christmas Carol (which I have not seen), opening in computer animation
before putting a Smurfy twist on a classic story in 2D Flash animation. While the short retains the movies' celebrity voice cast but for Katy Perry and the late Jonathan Winters, it is written and directed by unaffiliated individuals who are versed in 2D and 3D animation.

Stranded in the woods with a broken wheel, Panicky Smurf, Hefty Smurf, and Clumsy Smurf are joined by Narrator Smurf (movie trailer voice Tom Kane), who proceeds to tell them a campfire ghost story.

It involves the Smurfberry Hunt portion of the Smurfs' annual Harvest Festival. Brainy Smurf expects to win the competition for a tenth consecutive year. Determined to learn his secret advantage, Gutsy follows the poindexter to (gasp!) Smurfy Hollow, a region reputedly haunted by the Headless Horseman. Brainy knows better than to believe in such malarkey, so every fall while his fellow Smurfs are searching elsewhere, he's got a bounty of untouched berries to round up.

Gutsy decides to teach the reigning champ a lesson, involving a quickly assembled tiny headless horseman figure that casts a very large shadow. A frightened Brainy winds up in a trap set by Gargamel. As do Smurfette and a guilty Gutsy when they come looking to rescue him.

The endangered trio has to use some quick thinking to elude Gargamel and Azrael as well as the Headless Horseman himself.

The DVD's cover art deceptively suggests a CG-animated short, which Smurfy Hollow is not, save for its brief bookending segments. That may disappoint the kids who love Sony's Smurfs movies (and there are plenty out there who do). But it gives Smurfy Hollow greater appeal for Smurf purists, those who grew up on Hanna-Barbera's series, which long claimed an hour and a half of Saturday morning airtime on NBC.

These Smurfs remain in Smurf Village and do not have to share the screen with television stars like Neil Patrick Harris and Sofia Vergara. The comedy angle is not overplayed and pop culture references are non-existent. It's simple, sweet, and has a nice message, playing like a two-parter of the '80s series' quarter-hour episodes. While this is no substitute for the real thing (less of which is on DVD than you'd expect), it kind of bridges the pronounced gap between the different generations' Smurfs.

Gutsy Smurf, Brainy Smurf, and Smurfette wind up trapped in Gargamelian cages. Gargamel and Azrael narrowly reach safety, crossing the bridge that the Headless Horseman cannot.

VIDEO and AUDIO

It's crazy for a brand as recognizable and popular as the Smurfs to get a DVD-only release in 2013 and this presentation is mediocre even by standard definition standards. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen video shows some ringing around lines, which it definitely shouldn't on such a featherweight disc (which uses less than a third of single layer capacity). Furthermore, the cartoon doesn't even get full Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.
The 2.0 Stereo track is immediately lackluster. You can argue that the target audience for such a work doesn't care about 1080p video and lossless audio or even just surround sound, but touches like that clearly do enhance the viewing experience, regardless of age.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

There are no bonus features beyond trailers for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, Hotel Transylvania, and The Swan Princess: A Royal Family Tale, which all play automatically at disc insertion. Sony must have thought a Smurfs or Smurfs 2 trailer would be preaching to the choir.

The two static, silent menu screens (Main and Languages, as no chapter stops are supplied) feature Jack-o-Lantern cursors.

No slipcover or inserts jazz up the plain white keepcase.

While Brainy Smurf is trapped back in Sleepy Hollow, Papa Smurf is crowning Gutsy Smurf the winner of the Smurfberry Hunt at the annual Harvest Festival.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Too good to be dropped in an average bonus features list but not really good enough to warrant its own DVD, The Legend of Smurfy Hollow probably ought to be premiering on television this fall. At its super low price, this vanilla disc is preferable to paying for shipping if you're close to a minimum order threshold, though it does seem silly to devote any shelf space to such a lightweight spin-off.

Buy The Smurfs: The Legend of Smurfy Hollow on DVD at Amazon.com

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Related Reviews:
The Smurfs (2011) Smurfs: Season One, Volume One The Smurfs: A Magical Smurf Adventure The Smurfs and the Magic Flute
DreamWorks Spooky Stories Alvin and the Chipmunks: Trick or Treason It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
The Halloween Tree The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad The Nightmare Before Christmas Hocus Pocus
Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas Special Prep & Landing Adventures of the Gummi Bears: Volume 1
Sony Pictures Animation: Hotel Transylvania Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Surf's Up Planet 51

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Reviewed September 6, 2013.



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