Movies That Ruined My Childhood: The Smurfs and the Magic Flute
…Or more accurately: Movies that Shattered the Illusion that anything I liked in my Childhood was any Good. With the Smurfs once again in theaters, I decided to revisit the 1976 animated film. It is so boring and insane that it retroactively casts doubt on everything I ever loved.
I recall being extremely good at picking awesome stuff as a kid. My family indulged us in some of the greatest toys to ever come out of the 80’s. We had lightsabers lovingly gifted to us from an Uncle’s trip to a collectors convention. We had Inhumans and Insektors, two of the best toys that no one remembers. With the help of our cousin, we could even form Voltron, although he always got to be the head. I was confident that anything I liked back then was objectively good. Then I rewatched The Smurfs and the Magic Flute.
The Smurfs and the Magic Flute (1976)
A magical flute created by the Smurfs, a diminutive race of blue lunatics, has wound up in the hands of a human court jester. The flute causes all who hear it to dance themselves to exhaustion. The jester loses it, of course, and it ends up in the hands of Oily McCreep, a villain with a name just shy of being good enough to be in a Star Wars movie. A gallant knight and the bumbling jester set out to get the flute back before it can be put to nefarious uses. Their quest is aided by Papa Smurf, the patriarch of the sausage fest that is Smurf village.
This movie was written and directed by Peyo, the creator of the Smurfs in their original comic form. This film is a Belgian/French collaboration, and the localization is a nightmare. Did you notice how I just referred to the protagonists as “a Knight” and “the Jester”? That’s because their names are apparently very much up for debate. The Knight is alternatively Johan or John. The Jester is Peewit, Pirlouit or just plain William. Sure, whatever. The voice acting in the movie is awful and the dubbing is cringe-worthy. That this movie has an IMDB entry is less a record of their accomplishment and more a scarlet letter, a warning to future sound editors.
The themes in tSatMF (yup, I’m tired of typing) are all over the cultural map too. Ostensibly the tale is medieval fantasy, but the late 60’s early/70’s hippy culture saturates the movie. The Smurfs are for all intents and purposes communists, completely indistinguishable from each other save for each Smurf’s helpful unique trait. The wizard Homnibus uses hypnotism and alchemy in lieu of medieval magic. The villain amasses enormous wealth with the flute, and then inexplicably seeks to waste it in a bid to become the ruler of the world. Peyo created this story in a post WW2 Europe, when new thoughts on how the world should work were coming a mile a minute. This movie is a faithful adaptation of the comic that begat it, and it’s a chaotic affair, pregnant with a million different ideas.
Insane and Insanely Boring
With all the crazy characters and ideas being flung around, you would think the movie was at least interesting. It is not. Johan shows his martial prowess in a joust early on, and does nothing of merit for the rest of the film. Peewit is a buffoon, but is never funny. The Smurfs are all insane, with Papa Smurf being the lunatic running the asylum. But it’s never endearing. Their insanity is just exhausting. The only reasonable Smurf is Brainy, and every time he opens his mouth to talk reason into the other Smurfs, the nearest Smurf TRIES TO MURDER HIM.
All of this leads to a movie that is taxing. Hanna-Barbera made the Smurfs popular in the US with a reboot cartoon, and this movie made it to the states in 1983 to capitalize on that good will. But HB made the Smurfs unique and interesting, whereas they were a happy accident in Peyo’s comic about Johan and Peewit. As such, the backstory of all the characters from this film are without any reference. The good will that the Smurfs had in America is wasted on this late to the party cash in.
The Fallibility of Memory?
When this film came back to my radar via VUDU I was interested. I remembered liking it. I recalled finding the pairing of Johan and Peewit charming, the Smurfs as a fun concept, and the flute battle at the end as epic. My brother remembered the boat scene as being incredibly long and insufferable. I was wrong in the charm factor of this film. Neil was wrong in that the boat scene lasted 1.5 minutes, and came in at the very end. I thought Raggedy Anne and Andy was charming, despite its fever dream nature. Apparently memory fails us.
The Smurfs and the Magic Flute is a short (hehe) waste of your time. It is free on VUDU right now, if you have committed something terrible and want to punish yourself.