“The Smurfs” combines live action with animation and is visually appealing. Too bad the script lacks punch. Better to wait for the DVD to watch it with your kids.

courtesy of Sony Pictures

Before they opened, who would have thought that “The Smurfs” movie would run a close second behind “Cowboys and Aliens” ($36.4 million vs. $35.6 million) at the box office?

Apparently, no one pays attention to advance reviews; if they did, the films wouldn’t have earned even half their box office grosses.

I saw “The Smurfs” on a weekend outing that included two 7-year-olds and one 10-year-old. A little into the movie, I hoped the kids were enjoying the movie more than I was, but that wasn’t the case. Even they picked up on the tired script and super-sweet tone. It was like being subjected to non-stop episodes of “Barney.”

The film has the evil Gargamel (Hank Azaria) trying to capture the Smurfs for their essence, which he can distill into a magic potion. While running from the nasty conjurer, Papa Smurf (voiced by Jonathan Winters), Smurfette (Katy Perry) and the tiny blue folks smurf their way through New York City while aided by humans, played by Neil Patrick Harris and doe-eyed Jayma Mays.

(On a side note, why are animated characters always transported from their idyllic homelands to New York City? In “Love, Actually,” Englishman Colin longs to visit Milwaukee, Wisc. Now that’s original!)

It’s a kids’ movie, so filmgoers will have no problem distinguishing the good guys from the villains. But the film lacks the clever humor of a “Toy Story” or the spectacular animation of a “Beauty and the Beast.” And the constant use of variations of the word “smurf” as a noun, verb and adverb grows annoying quickly.

I heard my 7-year-old nephew laugh once, and that was in response to other audience members’ laughter, like a laugh track.

That’s too bad. “The Smurfs” has some sweet moments and even some chuckles, but never reaches – or even comes close – to greatness.

I recommend waiting for the DVD.

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