Are Saturday morning cartoons still a thing? Not having TV, I have no way of knowing. Even if they are, they can't be the same, mean the same, as when I was a kid. Back when, basically, with the exception of a couple of after school shows, cartoons were really only available on Saturday mornings. We'd wait all week for those few hours of cartoons on Saturday mornings.
I used to get up early for them, too. Looney Toons came on at, like, 6:30am, and I didn't want to miss any of it, so I'd get up to watch it. Unlike my friends. I'd spend the night at my best friend's house, and I would be the only one up on Saturday morning. The rest of his family (and it was a big family (Cory was the youngest of 8 kids) would start getting up around 8:30-9:00, and there I'd be sitting on the floor in the family room watching cartoons. Cory was always one of the last ones up, too.
One of my favorites was Thundarr the Barbarian. Thundarr was created by the same guy that came up with Space Ghost, which I also loved. These were the 'toons that were at the tail end of my Saturday morning addiction, though. My real childhood cartoons were shows like Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, Super Friends, and Tom & Jerry. The cartoons of my childhood, my actual childhood, were decidedly "old school."
I was 11 when The Smurfs came out. Still into Saturday morning cartoons but focused on super heroes and the like. I never really got into any of the cutesy cartoon series that so marred the Saturday mornings of the 80s. But I had a 5-year-old brother, and he loved The Smurfs. No, I mean he really loved them. Generally speaking, I ruled the television set, but I wasn't able to override the watching of The Smurfs every Saturday morning. I hated them.
In fact, it may have been my dislike of the Smurfs that caused my initial break from the cartoons I loved so much. At some point not long into the run of that show, it's air time marked the time that I would go outside. I just couldn't sit through it to wait for whatever came after. Not that the stuff that came on after The Smurfs was really any better. My brother watched all that 80s stuff including Jem and Strawberry Shortcake. Thankfully, the stuff I most wanted to watch came on early in the morning before my brother was even awake.
It was with some amount of dread that I greeted the first trailer for the Smurfs movie. And, then, horror as my kids announced that they really wanted to see it. They didn't understand my antipathy toward those little blue... things and that horrible "song" they sang.
I knew I couldn't deal with taking them to see it in the theater. There was just no way I was going to pay money for that. But they didn't know that. And I didn't tell them. Instead, I allowed the movie to come and go without ever bringing it up. It came out at the tail end of the summer movie season after we'd already seen all of the "necessary" movies like Thor and Captain America, so I managed to get away with it.
My daughter saw the dvd on the shelf at Target while we were out Christmas shopping. Despite having been forewarned about asking to buy things for herself, she asked for that. I told her I'd rent it for them, but I was in no way going to buy that movie, so I set it into our line up on Netflix, and it came last week. I had no intention of watching it.
But that's not the way my kids like to do things. They like for me to cuddle on the couch with them and watch movies together. But I had a plan!
See, everyone else is on vacation. That doesn't extend to me. Not really. If a vacation is where you take a break from your regular routine, I was certainly not on one. I still had writing that needed doing, including the blog, food that needed cooking, and a dog that still needed to go out at 6:00am every morning. Vacation, however, means that everyone stays up later and sleeps in longer. Except me. Well, except me on the sleeping in bit. I'm sort of obligated to stay up later, but I still have to crawl out of bed (more like fall out and, then, crawl across the floor) at the same time that I always do. So I've been a little more tired than normal since I've been going on about 3 hours less sleep every night than I usually get.
Do you see the plan? Do you? It was sheer elegance in its simplicity. [Bonus points for anyone that can name the source of that quote/paraphrase without looking it up. Hint: I've talked about the origin of it sometime or other on this blog.] I would just put the movie in, cuddle up on the couch with them, and go promptly to sleep.
It almost worked.
I was asleep before we'd finished getting through the opening credits, which included a couple of smurfs riding on the backs of some birds with loads of smurfberries. It felt sooo good.
And, then, something happened.
I don't even know what it was, but something woke me up. And not far enough into the movie to be able to excuse myself from it because I didn't know what was going on. No. I woke up just in time for the actual plot to get going. Gargamel was rampaging through the smurf village which lead to a group of the smurfs going through a portal into New York City with Gargamel hard on their heels.
I really didn't want to watch that movie, but I couldn't get up. I was preparing myself for an hour of torture. Not that I haven't subjected myself to that kind of thing in the past to appease my children (see Happy Feet, or, rather, don't. Horrible, rotten movie. (I'm glad the sequel did so pathetically poorly)).
Something amazing happened. I enjoyed the movie. I enjoyed The Smurfs! It made me laugh! A lot!
First, there was Neil Patrick Harris. I was never a watcher of Doogie Howser, so I have no nostalgic liking of NPH; however, I greatly appreciate his ability to not just allow but to participate in people laughing at him. But he really got me with his portrayal of Dr. Horrible. [I was going to give you a link to go watch it, but, evidently, it is no longer available to watch free online. If you haven't seen it, though, I would strongly encourage it.]
There was also Jayma Mays. To be honest, she didn't bring anything unique to her part other than being cute, and that's not really all that unique. Especially in Hollywood.
There was Hank Azaria. OH MY GOSH! I love Hank Azaria. He's like the Alec Guiness of this generation, but the funny version of Alec Guiness. In fact, I bet Azaria could do Guiness. At any rate, he was so good as Gargamel that I couldn't figure out who was playing the part. I had to look it up (well, have my wife look it up, because, as I said, I was stuck under two kids and a dog on the couch). Azaria's been in some... let's just say "not good" movies, but Azaria is always good. And he was awesome as Gargamel.
And I sat there on the couch with my kids, and I loved that movie. Not as much as they did, but still... it was a huge step for me and a reminder of the lesson to not have preconceived notions about things. My daughter is still on me about buying it for them. I'm even considering it. After all, she does have a birthday in the not too distant future.
I'm not saying that everyone out there should run out to see The Smurfs. I have a much greater ability to appreciate kids' movies than the average adult. Especially the average adult without kids. And it did have a few problems. Like a completely dropped subplot that seemed a bit significant when it was introduced. However, you might just be surprised by it. If you can get over the fact that it's about litlle 6" tall blue people with tails.