Film Review – The Smurfs 2
Ugh, okay. There are certain times with movies when it’s hard to even muster up enough enthusiasm to talk about it longer than a few seconds. Such is the case with The Smurfs 2. Your short and simple review for this film is: Don’t Bother.
The Smurfs 2 is as contrived, eye-rollingly bland, dull, and just plain lame as you expect. The first movie made a ton of money, as it was marketed at undiscerning small children; of course, the obligatory sequel comes along so weary parents can get separated from more of their hard-earned cash. However, even the small children in the preview audience I saw this with didn’t seem all that enthralled. They giggled on occasion, but there was far more silence than giddiness in that theater.
This time around, the evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria) has created a couple of “evil” Smurf-like creatures known as The Naughties. They are Vexy and Hackus (Christina Ricci and J.B. Smoove, respectively). Gargamel wants them to lure Smurfette (Katy Perry) back to his lair so that he may steal her essence to create more Smurfs in captivity. He can use their essence to power his magic tricks now that in the real world he has become a world-famous magician doing tricks before sold-out theaters. So of course Smurfette gets kidnapped, and Papa Smurf comes to the rescue accompanied by a motley handful of others from his world.
I can’t believe I just wrote those last few sentences.
Anyway, the Smurfs reconnect with newlyweds Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays from the first movie, who have a son named Blue. Meanwhile, Harris’s character is dealing with his overbearing stepfather, played by what must be a slumming Brendan Gleeson (talk about casting an actor with far superior chops than what the role requires). The humans help the Smurfs with their mission, fireworks go off, Gargamel gets hit in the crotch, product placement is placed, Azrael the talking cat giggles repeatedly, pratfalls abound, and it’s all pretty much what you would expect. An hour and a half goes by and now your local fast food restaurant has a new toy to include with their kids meal.
This was said before when talking about the first Smurfs movie, and it applies again: this kind of movie is what’s wrong with Hollywood. The Smurfs is a property the studio can leverage on the cheap. They heavily market it to kids because kids’ movies make tons of money. When you sell a ticket to a small child, usually at least one adult has to go along. So suddenly you’re doubling your ticket sales. Quality is almost an afterthought. Meanwhile, the script is written by committee (in this case there are five credited writers; forget how many others worked on “punching it up”). You get the guy who directed both Scooby-Doo movies and Big Momma’s House to churn this thing out, of course make it 3-D, and boom: you’ve got a movie.
The Smurfs 2 is another one of these children’s movies with too many topical references that will end up dating very badly in the future. Jokes about posting to Smurfbook or reporters from Entertainment Tonight playing themselves (does anyone watch that show anymore?) will look really lame in the future. At one point, Mays’s character uses Audrey Hepburn‘s gown from Breakfast at Tiffany’s as a disguise. While cute, will any 6-year-old know the first thing about Audrey Hepburn? I dare you to find me a child under ten who’s even heard of Truman Capote. This kind of referential sassiness is cropping up far too much in kids’ films.
If there is anything positive to say, it’s that at least the 3-D here is impressive. Many, many things pop out of the screen. Some shots are pretty, as in during the climax in Paris when blue lights come shooting out of manhole covers throughout the city. So in an amusement-park-eye-candy kind of way, the 3-D effect is worth it. There’s just no movie behind it.
I mean no ill will or disrespect to these actors. NPH and Hank Azaria are two of the most energetically talented people in Hollywood. I hope they got paid a lot of money for this, and I’m sure they have the best of intentions starring in these films. Meanwhile, Brendan Gleeson squeaks out probably the only bit of genuine emotion during the movie when he finally tells his stepson that he’s done his best but has had enough rejection. It’s about 20 seconds of honest-to-God engagement in what is otherwise a tedious movie. (To put it all in perspective, while admittedly much older than the Smurfs target audience, my teenage daughter fell asleep and actually started snoring during the climax. That pretty much says it all.) Also, it’s sad to think that, as the voice of Papa Smurf, this will be Jonathan Winters‘s last movie. He was a wonderful comedian who deserved better than this.
I’m sure The Smurfs 2 will make a truckload of money and we’ll be suffering through The Smurfs 3 in a couple of years. But all of the parents who keep showing up for these things are just enabling the studios to keep churning out movies that are more marketed than fun. This may all sound very harsh on what is essentially a non-threatening piece of fluff. But if anyone can handle harsh critiques, it should be a studio that can put hundreds of millions of dollars into mind-numbing sequels. Kids deserve better.