Member # 3101
posted 08-02-2013 11:46 AM
Smurfs 2 Movie Review
RATING 5 STARS
The Smurfs 2 is a great movie. It contains a positive, family-friendly message. It has humor aimed at kids and adults. The little ones I saw The Smurfs 2 with were laughing in the isles, and the adults loved it too. Don't believe the critics who give this movie a low rating - they don't know what they're talking about. Its smurftacular, and I'm going to tell you why.
The Smurfs 2 is funny. There are laugh-out-loud moments that are silly and outrageous...and truly funny. If you're a jaded reviewer, perhaps you can miss it, or perhaps you think you’re “above it”, but it’s there. The movie has soul as well, and tackles some deep issues (more on that). Most of all, The Smurfs 2 is happy. So many movies these days are cruel, insincere, violent and are not family friendly. The Smurfs 2 is something everyone can enjoy - but it isn't cloying.
Finally, this is a deep movie. The critics have it all wrong. It explores two major themes - the role and importance of family, as well as the transformational affect of love. Don't believe me? Read ahead.
What is family? Is it just the biological and genetic lineage you emanate from? Or is it more? Is it the support system of those who love and care for you? Does the love you receive (or are denied) shape "who you are" and what you want? More importantly, can you change? The Smurfs 2 explores these issues.
The beginning of the Smurfs 2 is a nightmare - literally. Smurfette is dreaming that she has betrayed her fellow Smurfs - a dream she has every birthday. She uses a magic dragon's wand (symbolic of evil) and summons Gargamel to the Village and gets a pat on the butt while Gargamel praises her as "daddy's little girl". This isn't just a Smurf nightmare, this is part of the mixed emotions every child faces as she grows up - will she be just like her dad or mom? Can pleasing a parent, as one becomes an adult, bring one into an evil realm? When do you say no? Do you give into evil temptations or resist them? Are you doomed to repeat the sins of your father, and will you forever be punished for them? As stated earlier - can you change, and will people accept you as changed?
Speaking of evil...Gargamel is back again in The Smurfs 2. Hank Azaria was unleashed in this movie and allowed to run wild. He is wonderfully, beautifully, terribly evil. The writers, the director, and the actors all understand what makes the Smurfs "tick". If characters as syrupy-sweet as the Smurfs are to exist, a truly evil counterpart must exist as well. The Smurfs nemesis just can't be kind of bad - he has to be horribly evil. And Hank Azaria's Gargamel fills this role perfectly. He simply wants unlimited power and to rule the world, having everyone worship him as a genius in the process. He's cruel. He's a (possibly would-be) murderer. Why? We learn in the Smurfs 2 that Gargamel's dad repeatedly threw him down a water-well for disappointing him. Did this unending cruelty transform Gargamel into the man he is today? Because Gargamel was denied love, is that the reason he requires the "bootlick" fans of his magic show to fall down and worship him, literally at his feet? Is this a treatise about the nature of celebrity and actors as well? What happened in the lives of actors and performers for them to require so much adulation from people they don't even know, or perhaps don't even like?
Okay, back to the movie...Are there any new characters introduced in The Smurfs 2? Yes indeed! We get to meet some new faces this go-around in The Smurfs sequel. Patrick and Grace Winslow's unborn son Blue Winslow is now a little boy, and he is played by Jacob Tremblay. Vanity Smurf (who we met briefly in the first movie) is voiced by a very British-sounding John Oliver. Although Vanity isn't inherent to the story, he's great comic relief. Another returning Smurf is Jimmy Kimmel's Passive Aggressive Smurf, who actually gets to say a line in this movie. And we finally get to meet the tubby Greedy Smurf!
Two brand-new, never before seen characters who are actually important to the plot in The Smurfs 2 are Vexy, played by Christina Ricci, and Hackus, played by J.B. Smoove. Both are excellent voice actors by the way. Vexy and Hackus are Naughties, wicked Smurf-like creatures created by Gargamel. Gargamel made the Naughties so he could eventually turn them into real Smurfs, and extract their essence. Smurf essence is what makes Gargamel's magic wand function.
Not too long after the movie starts, Smurfette is smurfnapped by Vexy and taken to Paris, where Gargamel is having success as a stage magician. Gargamel needs Smurfette to reveal the Smurf-making formula Papa used to transform her so he can use it on the Naughties. Vexy takes it upon herself to help her "father" Gargamel by turning Smurfette evil, and thus become willing to give up the formula.
Vexy taunts Smurfette that she, Hackus and Gargamel are her true family. This is especially troubling for Smurfette as she has doubts as to whether or not she is a real true-blue Smurf. She was originally created by Gargamel in the lab to betray the Smurfs. Papa Smurf used his magic to transform her and adopt her. But in her heart, as in her nightmares, Smurfette fears she's just like her “other” dad - truly evil in nature.
Vexy asks, “Where are Papa Smurf and the others?” Shouldn’t they have come rescue her if they really cared? It appears, with a lot of subterfuge, that Vexy is correct – Papa Smurf is nowhere to be found (even though he is desperately searching for Smurfette). Eventually, Smurfette is tempted by evil. Gargamel bribes Smurfette with a magic wand of her own - which she accepts, and uses very well...just like her biological father Gargamel. Perhaps she really is at home with these evil people, she wonders.
Vexy, on the other hand, shows signs of being transformed by "good". Despite the fact Vexy fakes her concern for others, Smurfette's genuine affection during a hug seems to touch her emotionally. Could this love and kindness stuff be real? What are these feelings Vexy is having? We don't get to see much of this develop, it is only hinted at. More needed to be done to have this exposure to love as a counterpoint to Vexy's tempting of Smurfette.
Vexy and Hackus have a terrible parent in Gargamel. He is going to torture them in an extremely painful Smurf essence extraction process. He barely feeds them, allowing them to starve on a regular basis. The Naughties require drops of Smurf essence to survive, and he is quite ambivalent as to their survival. He states to Smurfette that he can simply make "more" if they die. The evil Gargamel was subjected to as a child is now being re-visited upon his own children. Will Smurfette continue this cycle of evil?
The "b" story in The Smurfs 2 is about family as well - the Winslow and Doyle family. But first, some background about Patrick Winslow: The Smurfs franchise is very much a Hollywood production. Patrick Winslow is a direct analog of Dick York's Darrin Stephens from the TV show Bewitched. And I don't mean he's a modern version - he's pretty much a carbon copy. Patrick is played by Neil Patrick Harris, an actor of similar physical presence and personal disposition as Dick York. Patrick works "in marketing" and is part of a nebulous world of "accounts" and unclear responsibilities - just like Darrin Stephens. Patrick Winslow is a television show character placed in a major motion picture. But in The Smurfs 2, Patrick is given depth. He becomes a real person. He has a father who walked out on him. He has a step father. The movie even uses the term "broken family" when describing the world of divorce, step-parents and step-siblings. These aren't typical television show issues, these are issues explored in literature and on screen - the movie screen. The Smurfs 2 is a real movie, despite the fact that this is missed by most critics.
Okay, back to the story: Patrick Winslow was adopted by his step-father Victor Doyle (aka the Corn Dog King - don't ask). Patrick shows anger, resentfulness and contempt towards his adopted father. Nothing Victor does is ever good enough for Patrick, and he never appreciates Victor's gestures for what they are. Patrick experienced pain and suffering as an abandoned child, and now he is taking that pain out on those who love him. His selfishness hurts Victor so much that at one point Victor decides to leave. Will Patrick's own stupid actions break his family apart again, as his biological father's actions did? Side note: Brendan Gleeson plays Victor Doyle in the Smurfs 2 and brings great depth and gravitas to the character.
The two stories about family come together at the end of the movie in a very pleasant way. People often say Hollywood movies are escapist fantasy, and if they are, then this is the good kind of fantasy. In the real world, children of broken homes and emotional abandonment are often un-healable, regardless of how much love they are given. They either turn off internally so much that they can't express love, compassion or emotion (for fear of rejection), or they continue the cycle of rage and cruelty towards others. In The Smurfs 2, however, we get a happy ending. Smurfette never betrays Papa Smurf; she stays true to her good nature. She only gives Gargamel the essence formula to save the lives of Hackus and Vexy, who are starving - a noble heroic act. As well, Vexy and Hackus are transformed, first literally into Smurfs, and then they transform by making the choice to be "good". Finally, Patrick accepts his step-father's love by calling him plain-old "father", instead of step-father. Love and compassion win out over hopelessness and cruelty. Love saves the day. I wish there were more movies this hopeful.
Plus there are fart jokes. Okay that doesn't transition so well but this is a kid's movie. Mooning Smurfs, toots in the tub, a talking duck plus the very cute Hackus make this an enjoyable movie. How anyone can't appreciate it as something really special is beyond me. This is a great film that is fun regardless of your age - you'll get something out of it, even if it is laughing at "Gargaman" (as the little boy behind me called him) getting hit between the legs.
One final note. Do Smurfette, Vexy and Hackus have to carry the burden of their biological father's sins for the rest of their lives? Because Gargamel is tainted, are they tainted too? The Smurfs 2 answers this question with a resounding "no". Papa Smurf underscores his support for Smurfette by describing the fact that it was not the physical transformation in Papa's lab that changed her nature - it was the whole Village's belief in her inherent goodness. They believed-in and loved Smurfette, and that love was the act which was truly transformational.
So what needed to be changed in this film? Here are some thoughts about pacing and length. The Smurfs 2 feels like it should be a much longer movie. It is, at 105 minutes, pretty long for a kid’s movie. And you actually have to sit through all 105 minutes if you want to see the end clip after the credits. But Smurfs 2 feels like it was cut down from a longer film. There are scenes where the pacing is clearly off, such as when the Smurfs find a Sony tablet computer used by Gargamel and immediately become aware of the Naughties and Smurfette's plight. We don't get to see that happen, Papa just suddenly knows all about the Naughties. It feels jarring and there are lots of examples of this. The introduction scenes in the Smurf Village feel way to short. The "bonding" scenes between Vexy and Smurfette (particularly where Smurfette teaches Vexy about love and kindness) are too short as well. Vexy's transformation into a good girl is almost nonsensical. Yes, Vexy's life is saved so she should feel grateful to the Smurfs - but demonstration of such a massive internal change into "good" needs to be displayed on the screen. Also, what happened to the scene with Sofia Vergara? This clearly could have been a 120 minute movie. Kids would have gone crazy sitting still that long, so there is no way it could be. Too bad.
Technically speaking, the movie's 3D is astounding. Whereas the first movie could easily be seen in 2D, this second one really benefits from the great use of 3D. The opening credits pop out of the screen and are really exciting. The picture quality is great, and there are only a few foreground/background focus issues with the 3D (mostly in Gargamel's huge Paris lab at the end of the movie). Regarding audio, there is one small phrase where I'm almost positive it wasn't Jonathan Winters speaking as Papa Smurf, but I could be mistaken. As for writing, the movie is well written with a clear beginning, middle and end that takes you from one place to another emotionally.
Final thoughts and my wish list: I would love a Director's Cut of The Smurfs 2 (do they do that for "kids" movies?) which is longer and un-cut. Although I'm sure all that was animated made it to the screen, I bet there are some live-action scenes that could flesh things out. Overall, this is a fun, entertaining, silly, touching, hopeful and just plain happy movie. I wish there were more movies like this; I think the world would be a better place. GO SEE THE SMURFS 2!
__It's PeazJelly Time
Posts: 113 | From: SC | Registered: Feb 2010