If it’s all the same to you, the makers of THE SMURFS 2 would really like you to buy a Sony tablet. That’s one of the many lessons pumping through this sequel, which tries to balance humor and warmth with crass commercialism and jokes about people getting hit in the nuts.
This is the sequel to Raja Gosnell’s 2011 film, in which the Smurfs and their arch nemesis Gargamel (Hank Azaria) were transported to modern day New York City. At the end of the last film (spoiler alert, natch), the Smurfs made their way back to Smurf Village, while Gargamel and his creepy CGI cat Azrael were stuck in the Big Apple. He hasn’t exactly fallen on hard times however. In a world full of David Blaines, an actual wizard is a pretty hot ticket and hence “Gargamania” has swept the globe.
Still, Gargamel still has his sights set on getting more of the “smurf essence” and ruling the world. He has made two more “naughties,” the same creature Gargamel created Smurfette from. Gargamel doesn’t know how Papa Smurf turned Smurfette blue and thus into a warm, caring individual (there’s a nasty undertone here that is probably unintentional. Still, yikes.). If he can figure it out though, he can make more smurfs. Why would he want to do that? So he can juice the little suckers down for their essence, of course.
Meanwhile in Smurf Village, Smurfette (Katy Perry, the gal who sings about threesomes when not doing family entertainment) is feeling a bit underappreciated. It’s her birthday and she’s pretty sure everyone has forgotten. In truth, they are planning a huge surprise party for her and don’t want her to catch on. Still, she goes off alone to sulk in a sequence which starts to feel an awful lot like a FULL HOUSE rerun. A portal opens up and one the naughties, Vexy (Christina Ricci), kidnaps Smurfette, bringing her back into our world.
Papa Smurf (the late Jonathan Winters), Vanity Smurf (John Oliver), Clumsy Smurf (Anton Yelchin) and Grouchy Smurf (George Lopez, who by law must appear in every other family film) go through a portal to rescue Smurfette. This reunites them with Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris), Grace (Jayma Hayes) and their son, Blue. They also meet Patrick’s stepfather (Brendan Gleeson), who Patrick is angry at because he’s just always so darn supportive, kind and loving and… you know what? This is one plot point that the film never really conveyed very well. Seriously, what’s your problem, NPH? Quit being a dick already.
There is a parallel to this story, as the Naughties try to work their way into Smurfette’s heart, in order to get her to cough up the formula. Smurfette has to choose between the father who made her and the father who took her in. The question is whether the good guys will make it to Paris and rescue Smurfette in time.
I didn’t completely hate THE SMURFS, but I wasn’t exactly singing its praises either. It was a very “blah” film that was bright and colorful but played to the easiest audience possible. If you have raised or worked with children, you know that kids are obsessed with ass. Not in any inappropriate manner of course. But if you make a poop joke, a fart joke or any reference to the butt, chances are they’ll be giggling for the next hour at least. THE SMURFS new this and piled on the toilet humor. It even got into some pretty unsavory territory by having Gargamel urinate in the middle of a restaurant for instance.
THE SMURFS 2 thankfully tones this down a bit, but there’s still plenty of butt jokes and dialogue where the word “smurf” obviously covers up some curse words. It’s not horrible, but if you are expecting highbrow, PIXAR-level entertainment, you aren’t going to find it here. Still, this is a funnier and less cringeworthy film than its predecessor. Yes, I laughed a few times in THE SMURFS 2, and I smiled a bit too.
But the film makes other mistakes which prevents me from giving any higher acclaim. This film seems choppy, it lacks a certain flow and thus feels like we’re watching two films crammed together. Also, the drama with the human characters feels forced. Neil Patrick Harris could do this kind of thing in his sleep and sometimes, it seemed like he was considering giving that a try. Thankfully, the dilemma faced by the Smurf characters plays out much better, which begs the question why we need Harris and Family at all.
Vexy and Haggis (J.B. Smoove – a name that you want to hate but it’s kind of too awesome) and nice additions to the ensemble and the presence of Vexy means that Smurfette isn’t the only pint-size creature being leered at by strange internet perverts.
Basically, THE SMURFS 2 is a painfully average film. If it weren’t so bright and cheerful, it might be a total loss. There are some things it doesn’t better and some it does worse than the original film, making both films come out even in the end. And oh yes, there is plenty of consumer pandering, including the previously mentioned Sony tablet.
THE SMURFS 2 held my interest and I left the theatre with a small smile on my face. That’s all I can really say for it. It’s junk food, meaning kids will appreciate it a little more than the adults. But it’s nothing that will provide any great fulfillment for very long afterward. If the kids want to go, take them. But try to slip them a book or something afterward. ★★ (out of ★★★★)
– Rated PG for some inappropriate humor, but not as much as the first film
– Running time: 1hr 45mins.