Hank Azaria – really is – a talented individual. Out of all the projects that would’ve convinced me of this, I never thought a sequel to 2011’s big screen treatment of The Smurfs would bring on this revelation.
We’ve all seen actors converse and interact with cartoons in real life environments in movies. However, even the most physically capable slapstick performers have had their troubles convincing us these creations are real. I immediately think of Jim Carrey’s floundering in Mr. Popper’s Penguins.
Azaria, on the other hand, is able to make his scenes enjoyable while also impressing us with his ability to incorporate the imaginable. I was first shocked during a scene where Azaria (who plays Gargamel, the Smurfs nemesis) talks to his snarky feline and two of his “Naughties”, two new mean Smurf creations set out to kidnap Smurfette. I couldn’t help but be floored by how well he was performing, for a guy who’s essentially talking with himself. Say what you want about its context, but these moments of zeal made The Smurfs 2 worth the watch alone.
The film itself is fairly mediocre but harmless. It’s exactly what I expected from director Raja Gosnell, a man who brought movie goers Scooby Doo and Beverly Hills Chihuahua. It’s easy to take in and offers plenty of thrills and adventure for very young children.
The Smurfs 2 also doesn’t feel like a film that’s out to money grub. I’m sure the merchandise sales are nice, but the production has put enough focus on a decent story with a digestible – if conventional – message about family. Gosnell does all this with sincerity, even if these instances are preceded by obvious 3D set pieces and silly action sequences.
This was my first ride with the movie version of the Smurfs, so it was interesting to see how they were assembled for a big screen adaptation. The computer effects are integrated very well into real life, but the writing was lacking that certain pop the visuals held.
All of the jokes among the Smurfs consist of word substitutes for “Smurf” or a little blue guy saying something that suits their name (Social Smurf says something about “Smurfbook”, Passive Aggressive Smurf says something with a double entendre, and so on). This may be for children, but even these soft punchlines feel a bit too easy for its target audience.
I also would’ve preferred if the film hadn’t set viewers up with a group of the most two-dimensional Smurfs. Papa Smurf makes for a good and likeable leader on a quest to rescue Smurfette, but Vanity Smurf, Clumsy Smurf, and Grouchy Smurf are noxious and offer very little to the sequel.
As far as the human cast rounds out, Brendan Gleeson and Jayma Mays are having a blast entertaining young movie goers – even if that means acting as big hams. But, for some reason, The Smurfs 2 calls for Neil Patrick Harris to moan and complain throughout the movie. The usually energetic Harris doesn’t hide the fact that he’d rather be having a happier time.
The Smurfs 2 is too long, but the showy sequel is going to please those who are fans of The Smurfs. Meanwhile, others who may be new to Gosnell’s version of The Smurfs may find themselves neutral with the movie. For instance, I understand the film has met it’s expectations, but I would be perfectly content if this was the last Smurfs movie.
It’s not, however. According to sources, audiences will be getting yet another Smurfs movie in 2015. Hopefully, there’s a change of heart and movie goers get a Gargamel spin-off instead.