Reviewed by Ian Forbes
Sequels usually take a step back from the original, and end up less exciting, less fun, and simply less good. For that to happen to The Smurfs 2 after what I had seen in The Smurfs, that means this review was not going to be so Smurfy. However, this is why you play the game … or in this case, watch the movie.
The plot here is the same as the first essentially. Gargamel wants to capture Smurfs, drain them of their essence, and rule the world. That’s cool, that was the plot to pretty much every cartoon episode as well. Reminding the audience that Smurfette was originally his creation, turned good by the Smurfs’ Smurfiness, Gargamel has created two new “Naughties”: Vexy and Hackus (though the way his name is said most of the time I thought it was Haggis). He uses them to help kidnap Smurfette in search of discovering how to turn his creations into real Smurfs so he can breed an ever-lasting supply of Smurfs to fuel his magic. Got it? Good, I hate describing plots.
Replicating the worst element of the original, this is still a cross between live-action and CGI animation. Yes, Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays are back, this time accompanied by their kid (who they named Blue … yuck) and NPH’s stepdad in the form of Brendan Gleeson (who’s severely out of this film’s league). I would be over the moon if these films would simply drop humans altogether from the mix. Is it so hard to just make an animated movie? This is for kids after all, and in an attempt to play on the nostalgia of us thirty-somethings who watched the series every Saturday morning growing up, sticking with the cartoon would be great. Pretty much every time the action shifted back to the people and their problems, I lost all interest and simply bided my time before Papa Smurf and the others got back on screen.
Thankfully, the focus is much more squarely centered on the Smurfs. It’s in those scenes where the film succeeds. In fact, I actually enjoyed quite a bit of the Smurf action; and while I still see a bit of Chief Wiggum in Hank Azaria’s take on Gargamel, it wasn’t as bad as the first go around. The addition of Vexy and Hackus and their interactions with Smurfette keep the movie going and this isn’t the blasphemous and useless adaptation I was expecting.
The children in the audience were generally enthralled and aside from The Croods, this is the best kids’ movie I’ve sat through all year. The 3D is unsurprisingly useless, and while there were scenes that took advantage of it, there weren’t enough to warrant the extra cost. Stick to 2D on this one.
And for anyone wondering if I’ve had a particularly nasty knock on the head, have no fear. Despite my kind remarks, I’m not saying this is a must see or that you and your family would be missing some piece of your soul if you missed it. All I’m trying to convey is that this is a decent family friendly film that will keep your young kids interested. I doubt older kids will be all too keen on it and without a strong sense of nostalgia, I don’t know why adults would go on their own.
Still, if you’ve got little ones who are able to exercise basic movie theater etiquette, this is your best choice in the theaters right now. Yes, I know Despicable Me 2 is out there as well but although The Smurfs 2 has lower lows, its overall experience lagged a bit less and aside from a few minion-centered scenes, I’d actually rather re-watch this incarnation of the Smurfs. I’m just as baffled at you are by that idea but I can only offer my opinion and hope it helps some of you.
One word of advice though for the filmmakers when they get to The Smurfs 3. Just cut out all the humans and go to full CGI, even for Gargamel. The blending of techniques isn’t a new idea and it’s not helping this franchise. The kids are going to want to see it anyway and the adults won’t have a choice but to bring them and pay for overpriced tickets. Oh, and stop trying to be hip with your music choices. They were cringe-inducingly awful … and that sentence has a word that isn’t even a word in it. Don’t make me invent others.
The Smurfs 2 opens in theaters on July 31, 2013 and is rated PG for some rude humor and action.
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