Thursday, November 6, 2014

Another Lousy Sequel: The Smurfs 2

The Good: Generally good moral, Most of the voice performances are good.
The Bad: Simplistic plot, character arcs, and dialogue, Underwhelming special effects.
The Basics: The Smurfs return with a less-than-spectacular sequel with The Smurfs 2.

Sequels and children’s movies have a hard time getting good reviews from me. I am not against films for young people – often enough they have good messages and the best have a decent charm factor to them – but frequently they are made figuring that their target demographic is less-discriminating and an inferior product is churned out by the studios. Sequels, more often than not, are not the result of having more of a story to tell, but rather the financial success of the first film feeding into the studio’s desire to see similar returns on investment. The Smurfs 2 is definitely that type of sequel.

The Smurfs 2 is a live-action sequel that follows up on the events of The Smurfs (reviewed here!). The movie is intended for a younger audience and while one might assume that Neil Patrick Harris was under contract to do The Smurfs 2, how Brendan Gleeson became associated with the project is a mystery to me. The Smurfs 2 trades on fairly advanced computer generated graphics to blend the live-action elements with the artificial Smurfs and utilizes the voice talents of some very talented individuals (and Katy Perry) to embody the Smurfs and their new, evil, counterparts, The Naughties.

After a retcon with the story of how Smurfette was created, after originally being a creation and tool of Gargamel, Smurfette has a nightmare of reverting. Papa Smurf reassures Smurfette. Meanwhile, in the real world, Gargamel has become a huge celebrity doing magic, using the essence of Smurf stolen from Smurfs in the prior film. At their birthday party for Blue, Patrick’s step-father turns up, much to his annoyance. In Paris, Gargamel reveals his plan: he wants to use the Eifel Tower to open a portal to Smurf Village, where he plans to abduct Smurfette, learn how Papa Smurf turned her blue, then turn his Naughties into Smurfs, extract their essences and rule the world. When he is unable to fit through the portal he opened, Gargamel sends Vexy and Hackus to the Smurf realm to get her. Thinking that the other Smurfs have forgotten her birthday (when, in fact, they are planning an elaborate surprise party for her), Smurfette is susceptible to Vexy’s suggestion (and friendship) and returns to Earth with her.

While Smurfette learns about the Naughties and develops a friendship with the energetic Vexy, Gargamel makes plans to transform his collection of Naughties into Smurfs so he will have an unending supply of Smurf essence. Papa Smurf selects some of the best Smurfs to join him on a trip to Earth to recover Smurfette, but magic events conspire to put him on Earth with the likes of Grouchy and Clumsy instead. When Patrick and Grace encounter Papa Smurf and his crew, they become determined to stop Gargamel, an effort that is hampered by Victor getting himself and Blue into trouble at the same time!

The Smurfs 2 is an utterly simplistic film; Smurfette’s story arc is obvious from the beginning when she believes that she has been forgotten by her entire village and they are planning a big celebration for her. She falls in with the “wrong crowd” in the form of Vexy and Hackus and her willingness to explore her “Dark Side” is curbed long before she goes into truly rebellious territory. The conflict is simplistic, as is its resolution. In fact, the only lingering thematic quality for The Smurfs 2 is that the children’s movie explores the possibility of relapse. Smurfette was created to be an evil spy for Gargamel before the love of the Smurfs changed her; in The Smurfs 2 she is fearful that she will fall back into her old behaviors.

Such complexity is entirely absent from the human characters in The Smurfs 2. Patrick has a pretty reasonable beef with Victor from his backstory, but when Victor pops up and basically forces his way into Grace and Blue’s life – and back into Patrick’s, the movie seems to endorse the action. Victor shows no respect for the carefully-balanced (if annoying) life that Patrick and Grace have (as evidenced by their respecting one of their friends’ children’s peanut allergies and Victor sending the kid to the hospital). Victor becomes the hyper-involved grandparent and the message of The Smurfs 2 seems to be that if a grandparent wants to be involved, be happy and shut up about it!

The acting in The Smurfs 2 is mediocre, at best. Brendan Gleeson appears without any of his innate charm or charisma and even Neil Patrick Harris seems remarkably flat in the role of Patrick. Of the voice talents, only Christina Ricci stands out as Vexy; the rest emote adequately at best. Ricci sounds nothing like herself as Vexy and she gives a good performance with her altered voice.

Ultimately, The Smurfs 2 is simplistic and not even worth recommending to children.

For other works with Anton Yelchin, please visit my reviews of:
Only Lovers Left Alive
Star Trek Into Darkness
Like Crazy
Terminator Salvation
Star Trek
Charlie Bartlett
15 Minutes


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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