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Laremy Legel

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Member of the BFCA and OFCS, writer of criticism, noted interviewer, box office oracle, walker of dog named Bugsy, Qui audet adipiscitur.

Review: ‘The Smurfs 2′

3.5

"Paychecks for everyone!"

The Smurfs 2” is not so much of a film as it is a collection of images and sounds that bludgeon you. For the parents out there: is this a movie that will hold appeal for those under the tender age of ten? Certainly, yes, “The Smurfs 2″ should be received as a delight for its intended audience, though it’s a small tragedy that it will be a living nightmare for the adults. Mercifully, it’s less than a hundred minutes of actual running time, meaning it should only feel like two or three hours, max. Yes, parental patience will be needed to endure “The Smurfs 2″.

The threadbare plot is as follows: Smurfette (voiced by Katy Perry) feels under-appreciated for her birthday (lady Smurfs, amirite?) making her susceptible to her captors after she’s been kidnapped by Gargamel’s minions. The minions, in this case, are Vexy (tastefully voiced by Christina Ricci) and Hackus (voiced by J.B. Smoove). These dark grey anti-Smurfs were created by Gargamel (Hank Azaria) as part of his unceasing drive to create Smurf essence, only the experiments went all wrong, so he was left with little hungry non-Smurfs (because they need Smurf essence to survive). Now if you said, “Well why would he create something in an effort to manufacture essence only to have to use the precious essence to keep the failed experiments alive?” then you’ve hit upon a rather critical logical misstep by a film featuring little blue creatures running around using the word “Smurf” in place of other, often easier, words. Which is to say, c’mon, there is no plot, nor is there a legitimate nod toward even attempting one, it’s more along the lines of “Gargamel evil, do evil things, Smurfs good, let’s rescue the only lady Smurf in the business, Ms. Smurfette.” There is no story, just a few scenes where prior scenes are mentioned, the motivations for everyone involved as simple as a summer day.

What there is, in place of plot, are lessons galore, tidbits you can repeat to your child to form a more respectful youth. I will break down these lessons for future generations, in an effort to save them from “The Smurfs 2″. First off, it doesn’t matter where you came from, it matters how you act now. Smurfette learns that one in a big way. Second, don’t be mean to your stepparents, because they were probably just doing their best the whole time. Third, family comes first (just like in “Fast and Furious 6″!). Fourth, Neil Patrick Harris (as Patrick) has an uncanny ability to act opposite thin air (CGI’d Smurfs). That’s it! Those are the lessons from “The Smurfs 2″ – which have of course been done before by better (and less obvious) movies. Namely, “The Smurfs”.

To at least provide a modicum of introspection regarding “The Smurfs 2″,  one of the more troubling aspects has to be the starving children angle. In a children’s film, no less. As mentioned, the new “naughty” Smurfs need Smurf essence to live, and so when they’re low on power they beg Gargamel for food, and occasionally he obliges, but generally he gets upset and makes them beg until they are close to expiring. It’s a bit off-putting, I mean, why would starvation even be on the table in terms of appropriate family animation topics? And who wants to see a cute little Smurf get the vapors from malnutrition? A head scratcher that one. To the film’s credit, “The Smurfs 2″ is an ode to the value of stepparents, perhaps hoping to undo a couple hundred years of “evil stepmom” fairy tales. That’s a laudable angle, and Brendan Gleeson, as Patrick’s stepdad, shrouds himself in about as much glory as a film like “The Smurfs 2″ will allow.

Naturally, you’re going to get loads of the “La, La, La, La, La, La” song (which bears more than a passing resemblance to Paul Simon’s “The Boxer”. Coincidence? Or something more sinister?). The word “Smurf” will be used in place of words such as took, smarted, Facebook, exact, and in word variations including Stockholm Syndrome, The Heimlich Maneuver, Murphy’s Law, and of course “Smurf-tastrophe”. There’s more than a little chance that they just inserted the word “Smurf” randomly throughout the screenplay, the go-to joke when no other joke was available, a continual beating into the ground of a punchline that really wasn’t all that funny in the first place. Yes, yes, the Smurfs live in some alternate reality where they’ve also invented words for everything we have, and yet also use this primary word as a last name, and, in the case of the sole female, it’s her only name (here’s hoping feminists have a field day with that).

As such, the news for “The Smurfs 2″ is mostly bad. Where the first “Smurfs” occasionally provided a laugh or rose above its CGI pedigree, this version is much more of the “paychecks for everyone!” variety. In a summer with plenty of worthy family films (“Despicable Me 2,” “Monsters University,” “Turbo”) there’s not much room for a film like “The Smurfs 2″ to be considered a winner. It’s nothing to write home about, heck, it’s nothing to leave home for. A Smurfin’ shame, this one, a Smurfin’ shame.

SCORE: 3.5 / 10

Laremy wrote the book on film criticism and doesn’t get why only Papa Smurf can grow a beard.


Categories: Reviews

Tags: Christina ricci, Katy perry, Laremy legel, Movie review, Neil patrick harris, Smurfs, The Smurfs 2