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The Smurfs 2 – Movie Review

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The Smurfs 2 – Movie Review

Rating: C- (Below Average)

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The concept of taking the Smurfs and placing them in present-day big city life sounded like a daft idea, but the first picture had enough charm and humour to result in a genuinely surprising little family film. However, the idea is already starting to run thin in The Smurfs 2, which sends the Belgian elves to Paris this time. The humour in this entry is tired and stale and it is not helped by the million subplots that run together. This isn’t a Robert Altman film, it’s The Smurfs and there should have been a clear and central focus. Hopefully, for the next sequel, they decide to keep them in their village as the filmmakers have a wealth of material to borrow from.

The Smurfs 2 begins promisingly by recounting Smurfette’s origin story and it is nice to see the writers take directly from the comics and animated series. Even the slight change of Smurfette being born grey is hardly a detriment as it fits into why Gargamel is so desperate to turn his Naughties into real Smurfs. The screenplay has a real chance to dive into Smurfette’s inner torment of being an experiment and not delivered from a stork and how this affects her. However, rather than focusing on this and the Smurfs trying to save her, there are a lot of unnecessary and distracting plot elements thrown in. This causes what should be the main story to be not as developed as it should have been. There are large portions of screen time not devoted to Smurfette and the Naughties, so their character changes are rushed, though their relationship is rather sweet at points. On the other hand, the Naughties are not interesting characters to begin with, but most of the personalities are less fun this time around.

The worst part of The Smurfs 2 is the dull subplot between Neil Patrick Harris’s Patrick Winslow and his step-father, played by a time-wasting Brendan Gleeson. If Smurfette’s arc is given too little time, Patrick’s is given too much. Their issues merely take away from the Smurfs and feels like it belongs in an entirely different film. Gleeson’s transformation into a bird especially adds nothing, other than providing us with a lot of lame duck puns. One of the biggest faults of these hybrid projects is feeling the need to give a story to the live-action human lead, but other than Who Framed Roger Rabbit, those tend to be thinly written and we’d rather spend more time with the cartoon characters whose names are in the title.

The first one managed to keep the focus on the titular heroes, despite the human presence, while the sequel seems like it is trying to avoid keeping them on-screen for extended periods of time. The Smurfs 2 actually manages the shocking accomplishment of squeezing the fun out of Harris, one of the liveliest screen and stage actors today. Even Gargamel is not as funny in this sequel. His banter with Azrael the Cat was one of the joys of the first Smurfs, but most of his jokes here are merely hitting himself on the head and spouting pop-culture references. He even does a variation on that overused line from Scarface, which only produces groans at this point.

On the other hand, Azrael does provide some of the few laughs here as helped by the animators and Frank Welker’s excellent ability at creating the right meows and hisses for the cat. Some laughs are also thanks to Vanity Smurf, who John Oliver gives the right level of narcissism and he certainly gets the best lines in The Smurfs 2. The animators have done a terrific job of translating Peyo’s designs to these computer-generated creations and even the voice actors manage to fit, despite being the expected celebrity role call.

It is a disappointment more Smurfs are not taken along to Paris and the writers think of the flimsiest excuse for Papa Smurf to only bring three others. When you have so many of them at your disposal, why bring along so few for the adventure? All ninety-nine of them would certainly be more entertaining than the Harris-Gleeson storyline that mars the film. Another perplexing decision is Grouchy Smurf’s little story-arc in which he tries to gain an optimistic attitude, which comes out of nowhere, adds nothing and leaves in an instant.

With a sequel, there is more director Raja Gosnell and his band of five screenwriters could have done to expand on the Smurfs. With the multitude of comics and cartoon episodes having been made over the years, it is understandable the reasoning behind doing an original story. However, placing the Smurfs in our world just seems too easy and when you repeat that same formula the second time, it comes across as lazy. Smurfette’s origin story could actually have been longer than the few minutes we’re given and an episode such as the zombie invasion-like “Purple Smurfs” would certainly lead to a creative and clever premise.

Peyo did not even resort to using Gargamel in every single story he did, despite being the Smurfs’ main foe. There is still a lot of ground that could be covered in a Smurfs feature film and Gosnell and crew do not seem to be taking advantage of that. The likeability of the Smurfs can only enchant for so long, before the premise of them visiting a big city and Gargamel hitting his head a lot results in a much lesser product than this uninspired sequel.

Review By: Stefan Ellison

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