The Smurfs 2 is a special kind of awful. Generic, bland, soulless, mind-crushing, awfulness. There has been an incredible amount of family friendly fare recently and I would recommend going to see any one of them again over Smurfs 2. This borders on offensively bad. They say that puns are the lowest form of comedy. The Smurfs 2 is two hours of puns.
Everyone is back from the first film. Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, and Hank Azaria all reprise their roles and welcome in newcomer Brendan Gleeson. I truly hope the filmmakers paid Azaria handsomely for his dignity. He can be quite good given the right material, but here he is forced to mug it up so badly that there is nothing he can do. He spends a significant portion of the movie arguing with a cat. No one can make that look good. No one.
There are new Smurfs as well. Vanity Smurf is a 10 second joke stretched into a running gag. It is not funny. Ever. There are also two “naughties” which are Smurf like creatures that Gargamel (Azaria) created. Smurfette was also a Gargamel creation until Papa Smurf worked his magic on her. The naughties are Vexy and Hackus. Vexy is basically the exact same character as Smurfette and Hackus is the Smurf version of the Tasmanian Devil from Looney Toons. Neither is a welcome addition.
The plot is as follows: Smurfette is kidnapped by the naughties and brought to Gargamel who has been making a name for himself in our world as a magician. Smurfette feels like she doesn’t belong with the Smurfs because she was made by Gargamel and therefore is not a real Smurf. Gargamel wants Smurfette to give him the secret formula that Papa Smurf used to turn Smurfette from a naughty into the blue Smurf we know and tolerate. Papa Smurf brings Clumsy, Grouchy, and Vanity Smurf with him to enlist the help of their friends Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays who now have what appears to be a six year old child. Also in attendance is Brendan Gleeson playing Harris’ step-dad. Papa Smurf and company must get to Smurfette before she gives Gargamel the formula that would threaten all of smurf-kind.
I hope you had more fun reading that paragraph than I had writing it.
I will point out a few good things with this film. There are a couple and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention them. Neil Patrick Harris is very good in this. He seems adept at acting opposite nothing and somehow gets how he needs to move in order to incorporate the CGI Smurfs that will be added later. Brendan Gleeson is also extremely good as Harris’ step-dad. He takes this caricature of a role and owns it in a way that makes it feel somewhere in the vicinity of genuine. I must also mention that throughout the film I had a recurring thought. The CGI work on Papa Smurf’s beard is exquisite. I don’t know why it looks so much better than all of the other hair on the Smurfs but it does. That should give you a fairly good grasp of how engaging the story is. I was wildly aware of the work done on Papa Smurf’s beard.
It is possible that kids will enjoy this movie. Maybe even some adults. There was a woman at my screening that laughed at almost every line of the movie. I wonder if this is the first movie she’s seen. I don’t know how to describe the awfulness of this. It’s upsetting to me that a good children’s movie can be transcendent and will stay with a child forever, and yet we continue to get dreck like Smurfs 2. I don’t care much that there’s a positive message about family and overcoming your past. Good films can have messages too. And in those films they rarely tell us what the message is in the dialogue. I did not smile during this movie. Not once. Kids deserve better than this.