Somewhere in an old dark box in one of my mum’s cupboards is a whole village of Smurfs. As a child I spent hours playing with Peyo’s little blue creations and loved they were all the same but different, and always made sure I caught up with the latest episode of the cartoon series on a Sunday afternoon. Many years down the line, the second of their big screen adventures is about to hit, but will it leave you feeling smurfier or just blue?
Set three years after the gang’s first original adventure in New York, it is Smurfette’s (pop star Katy Perry) birthday, and in the midst of her friends trying to keep her party a surprise, she ends up feeling alone and outcast. This is compounded by a series of nightmares she’s having about her true parentage and whether she’s really a Smurf or Gargamel’s (Hank Azaria) daughter at heart.
Since being trapped in the human world in the last film, Gargamel has become a big star thanks to his sorcery, but he needs more Smurf essence to complete his evil master plan, and sends his two ‘naughtiest’ to kidnap Smurfette and learn the secret formula that changed her into a real Smurf. Can Papa Smurf and the gang, with a little help from human friends Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris, who has his own ‘father’ issues in this movie), Grace (Glee’s Jayma Mays) and Patrick’s stepfather Victor (Brendan Gleeson) rescue her before she turns to the dark side for good?
There was a real feel of nostalgia for me when I went to watch this movie. My younger self would have been delighted that the little Smurfs had made it to the big screen. This nostalgia, however, was quickly washed away within the first ten minutes of the opening titles. Gone were the innocent, wide-eyed creatures I remembered, and in their place were sarcastic, unfunny and dare I say mostly unlikeable little creatures that resembled the original Smurfs in appearance alone. The only redeeming character left was Papa Smurf (still voiced by original voice artist Jonathan Winters in his last feature movie) who actually had some of his original qualities.
And then we have the Naughties, the almost Smurfs that were created by Gargamel to try and extract Smurf Essence. The first, Vexy (Christina Ricci) is basically a carbon copy of Smurfette, albeit a bit naughtier (go figure) but Hackus (JB Smoove) is the most irritating and quite frankly pointless CGI creation since Jar Jar Binks hit our screens back in The Phantom Menace. I think even children will be insulted by his stupidity, as their own intelligence is being questioned by his inclusion.
The human characters, in fairness, don’t fare much better, with the usually likeable Neil Patrick Harris being a bit of an arse. He’s grumpy, mean and barely redeems himself by the time the end credits roll. As for Brendan Gleeson, I just weep. I can only imagine a large tax bill was involved when he signed onto this role.
My biggest irk with this movie, though, was the plot. I’m all for kids’ movies with a moral message, but I felt the importance of family and ‘it’s who raises you that matters’ was shoved down my throat with a giant, sugary stick. Make your point, sure, but make it in a more subtle way.
The only redeeming feature is Hank Azaria’s Gargamel, who is a villain evil enough root against, but not so evil that kids will go away with nightmares.
Admittedly, I’m not the main target audience for this movie, and I’m sure The Smurfs 2 will make a killing at the box office. But if you do take any bambinos to the cinema this summer season, I would suggest seeking another option for your own sanity’s sake.
The Smurfs 2 is out now in the UK.
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