Monday, February 17, 2014

The Smurfs 2

Directed by Raja Gosnell.
2013. Rated PG, 105 minutes.
Jayma Mays
Paul Ruebens

Since the events of the surprisingly decent first movie, Gargamel (Azaria) has remained in our dimension and become a world famous magician thanks to the smurf essence he extracted from Papa Smurf (Winters). Of course, wealth and glory is not enough for him. He wants to rule the world. To do this, he needs an unlimited supply of smurf essence. To that end, he's created Vexy (Ricci) and Hackus (Smoove), the Naughties. They look like smurfs, but lack the magical element to make them blue and thus, true smurfs. If he figures out how to do this he can create that endless supply of essence and world domination will be his. He opens a portal between worlds and sends Vexy to Smurf Village where she kidnaps Smurfette (Perry). Gargamel then tries to force her to tell him the secret formula to turn the Naughties blue.

 As in the original, watching Hank Azaria play Gargamel is a joy. He is so good in the role, it really is like the cartoon character took human form. Unfortunately, his is pretty much a stand-alone performance. The smurfs themselves are rather hit or miss. A few of their jokes are funny, but many are not. A number of the flat ones involve Grouchy Smurf (Lopez) trying on a more optimistic outlook. I get what they're trying to do, but it just doesn't work for me. this is a shame since this character was a high point of the first film. The humans in the cast, aside from Gargamel, are generic. The one possible exception is Victor (Gleeson), step-dad to our hero Patrick (Harris). He's not necessarily a great or original character, but he does bring some life to the screen.

The thing missing most is the magic of our little blue heroes. This is ironic considering the movie repeatedly tells us that their essence is indeed magical. For two movies now, they've been drawn into our world in limited numbers and share the spotlight with humans in the form of Patrick and his family. The greatness of the Saturday morning cartoon that spawned this franchise is that they were in their own world and solely responsible for their own well-being. There were also lots of them for us to get to know. Dropping them into Paris, or New York as in the prior movie, strips them of their autonomy, reducing them to dependents in their own movies. Worse, everything feels bland and rehashed. It's like they've just been slipped into a ready-made plot. The same story, at least their part of it, set entirely in and around Smurf Village and Gargamel's castle could probably have added some oomph to things.

My feelings on the matter aside, all is not lost. I'm willing to admit to being an angry fanboy on this one. I did watch the cartoon every Saturday morning during the mid-80s. This does seem to violated the spirit of the way I remember the show. As a self-contained movie, plenty of it just isn't good for  the reasons I pointed out. Still, kids who only know the first film are likely to enjoy it. It has a good deal of action and the Smurfette storyline works well enough. They may even laugh at more of the jokes than I did. The Smurfs 2 is a solid baby-sitter, not a solid movie.

MY SCORE: 4/10

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