Monday, June 23, 2008

Not So Smurftastic

When I was a little girl, I used to get up on Saturday mornings around 7. (I should interject here that I chalk this up to the folly of youth and not craziness. As a kid, I apparently did not understand as I do now that sleep is too precious to regularly squander it on a Saturday morning.) Because my parents understood the value of sleep, they were not awake and therefore no breakfast would be ready for me. So, I would make myself a mustard sandwich (I have since realized that two pieces of white bread joined by a thin spread of mustard is disgusting!) and plop down in front of the tv to watch Alvin and the Chipmunks and my favorite show, The Smurfs.

I loved watching the adventures of the 100 little blue creatures as they moved in and out of their mushroom houses in the forest trying to get away from Gargamel and Azrael. I thought Brainy Smurf was annoying and Papa Smurf had all the answers and Smurfette was beautiful. I loved trying to figure out what "smurf" meant in their language as in "You look smurfy today" or "I'm going smurfing." Even today, when I go on a long road trip, I can't resist thinking about the journeys the Smurfs took and how they would always ask if they were there yet. Papa Smurf would tell them no, but it wouldn't be much further. Without variation, they would ask the same question again and again until eventually he would sigh and yell, "Yes, it is much further!" (Or something close to that.) That's classic for me. It all is.

So I am a little disappointed--no, I'm mad, that they are creating a Smurfs movie. It's not so much that a new generation should not be allowed the same joy I experienced. I am mad because this movie is one more in a long line of television show-turned-movie. Need I list them? Bewitched, Transformers, The Incredible Hulk, The Dukes of Hazzard, Sex and the City, Speed Racer, The Incredible Hulk again, Get Smart, Miami Vice, and Alvin & the Chipmunks. The list goes on and on and these debuted just in the last few years. I have seen many of the movies in this list and I must say that I was disappointed. They were not nearly as good as the original shows or at least not as good as I remember them. This makes me wish I had not sullied the memory of the show with the viewing of the film. (Not to give away anything about Sex and the City which I encourage you to go see if you want, but it ranks high on my list of tv-shows-into-movies that I wish I had avoided.) All of this brings me to my next and main point: What happened to the creativity and originality?

Can anyone write anymore? Does anyone have an original idea? It seems that almost every movie that comes out now is based on a television show or a video game or a novel, or heaven forbid, just a remake of another movie (I was floored when I sat down to watch Jimmy Stewart in a 1940 movie, The Shop Around the Corner, and realized half way into it that it was an earlier version of You've Got Mail. Really?!?). I know nothing is new under the sun, but people just don't even try anymore. Our music is not original, our television shows are not original. I've been watching coverage of the Democratic presidential race and it has become a game for me to turn back and forth between the networks to listen to the different pundits and surrogates say the same phrases in response to the same questions asked by the different interviewers. Even our thoughts are no longer original. What does this say for the future of our country when no one can think outside the box? (Look at that--I used a trite, unoriginal phrase). Everything is just a reproduction of some earlier product. When I think about jazz and hip hop, the notion of creating a country built on Democracy, I am saddened because we used to be original. Can we go on like this?

Needless to say, I won't be going to see the Smurfs movie. Hopefully, however, I won't have to keep repeating the same question about originality: Are we there yet?