Release Date: July 31, 2013
Rating: Rated PG for some rude humor and actions
Genre: Animation | Comedy | Family
Run Time: 105 minutes
Director: Raja Gosnell
Cast: Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, Katy Perry, Jonathan Winters, Christina Ricci
Oh Smurf. The little happy-go-lucky creatures are back in what is meant to be a family-friendly Smurfalicious comedy but sadly, it's a big blue blunder. Even the rare funny lines aren't enough to save this waste of studio money.
The plot, such as it is, revolves around Smurfette (cooed in breathless baby voice by Katy Perry (Part of Me)), the only female in Smurf Village. We learn she was originally created for evil (gasp!) by the villainous wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria, Hop). Fortunately, Papa Smurf (voiced by Jonathan Winters, in his final performance) offered her salvation by way of Smurfiness. Smurfette isn't so sure that "once saved, always saved" applies to her, so when a misunderstanding causes her to feel unloved she's easy prey for Gargamel’s latest plot. This is, naturally, a plan to take over the world.
To that end, he has created more Smurf-ish creatures (kind of a generic version) called Naughties. Vexy (voiced by Christina Ricci (Speed Racer)) is the bad girl version of Smurfette. In an attempt to win love from her "father" Gargamel, Vexy tries to turn Smurfette to the dark side. Will Smurfette betray Papa Smurf and give up the secret recipe for "Smurfessence" before the brave band of blue guys rescues her? (What do you think?) There's a germ of a good story hidden here about knowing who you are and what makes up a family but you'll have to look hard to find it.
It's not just the ho-hum plot that makes this movie so dull. Neil Patrick Harris (Undercover Brother) looks bored with his role as Patrick, the Smurfs' human buddy who has father issues of his own. Brendan Gleeson (The Raven) tries hard—maybe too hard—as Patrick's stepdad, Victor. Members of the Smurf SWAT team sent to rescue Smurfette are as annoying as they are interchangeable. It's not just stupid; there are several actively icky aspects. Gargamel states that his goal is to be worshipped, something he achieves by force. There's a chase through a photo shoot of extremely pregnant brides (why?). Patrick's wife, Grace (Jayma Mays, Red Eye) brags about stealing from a hotel (in a good cause, but still, is that the example you want to set for your kids?).
I was surprised at the number of anatomical references made by male Smurfs. They whined about blows to their "smurfberries" and after an unfortunate landing one character exclaimed that he was "a real boy." After getting tangled in a laundry cart with a naked man (rather more innocent than it sounds) one shell-shocked Smurf mourned that he had "seen unspeakable things." Humans behaved a wee bit better, although did we need to know Gargamel's private parts were known as "gargaberries"? I think not. One wonders if the filmmakers added these little crudities specifically to boost the rating from G to PG; they certainly added nothing to the story.
The cat Azrael—a CGI wonder—is cursed with one of the most irritating voices in moviedom thanks to Frank Welker. But in this loud, lame excuse for a movie he's just one of the annoying voices you’ll be subjected to for almost two hours. The Smurfs' habit of inserting their name into every sentence quickly wears thin, too. Make your popcorn last; with any luck the crunching will drown out the worst of it. For what it's worth, the animation is rather gorgeous, especially in 3D. If you must take a child to see The Smurfs 2 (very young ones may enjoy it, despite its flaws), I recommend ear buds so you can admire Paris without the grating sounds of Smurfs.
The worst part? We’ll all have that annoying la-la song stuck in our heads again.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):
- Drugs/Alcohol: None unless you count Smurfessence fed to the Naughties, which appears to be more medicinal than anything.
- Language/Profanity: One "dear God" and a host of "smurf" inserted in place of actual profanity.
- Sex/Nudity: A man turned into a duck morphs back into human form sans clothing and falls into a laundry cart. We see some of his chest. Smurfette acts in a sultry way, but it's fairly innocent.
- Violent/Frightening/Intense: A lot of cartoon violence: falling (and bouncing) from humans, animals, and Smurfs. Slapping, hitting, the usual; the small children at the showing I attended did not seem frightened. Gargamel uses his wand to force people to bow down and worship him in a creepy way.
- Spiritual Themes: Gargamel is the devil, as it were: he takes a good creation (Smurfkind) and distorts it (the Naughties) in order to conquer the world and be worshipped as a god. Smurfette is mentioned as having what sounds like a salvation experience but wonders if her faith is misplaced. She has to choose between betraying her "faith" and saving someone's life, a tricky situation that might lead to good "what would you do" conversations. Another potential teachable moment could be Papa Smurf’s assurance that "It doesn't matter where you came from. What matters is who you choose to be."