Genre: CG Animation
Director: Raja Gosnell
Cast: Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, Sofia Vegara, Hank Azaria, Brendan Gleeson, Katy Perry, Jonathan Winters, Christina Ricci, JB Smoove, George Lopez, Anton Yelchin, John Oliver
RunTime: 1 hr 45 mins
Released By: Sony Pictures Releasing International
Official Website: http://www.smurfhappens.com/
Opening Day: 7 August 2013
Synopsis: In this sequel to the hybrid live action/animated family blockbuster comedy The Smurfs, the evil wizard Gargamel creates a couple of mischievous Smurf-like creatures called the Naughties that he hopes will let him harness the all-powerful, magical Smurf-essence. But when he discovers that only a real Smurf can give him what he wants, and only a secret spell that Smurfette knows can turn the Naughties into real Smurfs, Gargamel kidnaps Smurfette and brings her to Paris, where he has been winning the adoration of millions as the world's greatest sorcerer. There's no Paris landmark that Gargamel won't exploit in his quest, so it's up to Papa, Clumsy, Grouchy, and Vanity to return to our world, reunite with their human friends Patrick and Grace Winslow, and rescue Smurfette! Will Smurfette, who has always felt different from the other Smurfs, find a new connection with the Naughties Vexy and Hackus – or will the Smurfs convince her that their love for her is True Blue?
If you’re not excited about seeing Belgian comic artist Peyo’s happy little blue creatures on the big screen, then this movie is quite obviously not for you. Indeed, this sequel is made for the audiences who powered the 2011 live-action/ CG hybrid to a $564mil family comedy smash for Sony, so you can understand why the studio has decided to reward them with more of the same shtick. Yes, this is exactly the sort of the movie that you have to be prepared to treat with exactly the right expectations, so if you’re looking for anything more than a frenetic diversion as innocuous for the kids as it is for adults, then look elsewhere.
Continuing his streak of family-friendly comedies that began with 2004’s ‘Scooby Doo’, Raja Gosnell returns with four of the original’s writers - plus one new addition - with the evil wizard Gargamel (a decidedly over-the-top Hank Azaria) plotting yet again to use the Smurfs in some dastardly scheme to rule the world. Unfolding a number of years after the former film, Gargamel has since become a magic-show sensation at the Paris Opera House, enchanting his audience of humans with his tricks born of Smurf essence. But that essence is running out, and the faux-Smurfs known as the ‘Naughties’ - made up of the grey-skinned Vexy (Christina Ricci) and Hackus (J.B. Smoove) - he created are not only not able to give him the essence he needs, they need it to stay alive.
So yet again, Gargamel is after the Smurfs, or more specifically, the only female of their species Smurfette (Katy Perry), who was in fact Gargamel’s evil creation until she was turned blue and good by Papa Smurf (Johnathan Winters in what became his final role). On the other hand, Smurfette is herself facing ‘blue’ (pun intended), mistakenly believing that the entire village had forgotten her birthday when in fact they had planned a surprise. But before they get to convince her otherwise, she is kidnapped across dimension by Vexy, with Papa, Clumsy (Anton Yelchin), Grouchy (George Lopez) and Vanity (John Oliver) in hot pursuit to rescue her.
Rather than look for new human companions for help, the quartet once again turn to Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and Grace (Jayma Mays), who promptly pack their bags in New York and head to Paris. The increasingly frenetic plot juggles a couple of parallel storylines - including Vexy’s attempt to get Smurfette to hand over the formula by playing family with her, Patrick’s daddy issues with his genial stepfather Victor (Brendan Gleeson) who gets unfortunately turned into a duck by Gargamel halfway through the movie, and of course the Smurfs’ race against time to get to Smurfette before she reverts to her former devilish ways.
As you can already tell, Papa-hood figures as one of the key themes in the movie, with Papa Smurf’s doubts about his parenting abilities following Smurf’s kidnapping mirrored by Patrick’s strained ties with Victor. Interestingly, instead of the normal parent-child relationship, both portrayed here are about that between stepfathers and their children, a somewhat interesting twist given the state of reconstituted families today. Besides that, the writers also squeeze in some moral about finding one’s own identity - though the message of ‘being who you choose to be, rather than minding where you came from’ is blander than the one they make about parentage.
And yet, the kids will hardly mind. Gosnell keeps the pace light and frothy with knockabout humour (including ample Smurf-puns) and continuous action setpieces, the latter in and around a gorgeously filmed Paris thanks to returning cinematographer Phil Meheux. Choreographed with the post-conversion into 3D in mind, the action deliberately thrusts its audience into the thick, whether flying about on seagulls around the Seine River or riding a runaway Ferris wheel, i.e. the Roue de Paris. It’s a visual cornucopia from start to finish, and once again the integration of live-action and animated elements is flawless to say the least.
Though such family fare often don’t demand too much from their human actors, it must be said that this one is better off with new cast addition Brendan Gleeson. We’re not too sure what led the dramatic actor to sign on, but Gleeson shows off amply his comic gifts playing the well-intentioned but misunderstood gregarious stepfather - which also includes lending his voice to a duck. He and Harris also share a nice vibe, and thankfully never make the predictable saccharine ending too heavy-handed.
Such are the little things to be grateful in a movie like this, which never gets ingratiating to adults even as it is clearly directed at a kiddie audience. It’s too much to expect this sequel to retain some of the old-school charm of the Saturday morning cartoon, which is another way of saying that this is firmly commercial family fare that Hollywood has made formula. Still, if you need a cinematic babysitter that doesn’t insult your intelligence, you’ll find ‘The Smurfs 2’ is right up your alley.
(It’s a cinematic babysitter that will entertain the kids while keeping the adults relatively engaged - consider that faint praise for a firmly commercial Hollywood family comedy like this)
Review by Gabriel Chong