THE SMURFS 2: What Matters Is Who You Choose To Be

Smurfs 2
The Smurfs 2 (2013) – Directed by Raja Gosnell – Starring Neil Patrick Harris, Brendan Gleeson, Jayma Mays, Katy Perry, Hank Azaria, Jonathan Winters, George Lopez, Anton Yelchin, John Oliver, Fred Armisen, Christina Ricci, J.B. Smoove, Alan Cumming, Mario Lopez, Jimmy Kimmel, Tom Kane, Paul Reubens, B.J. Novak, Shaquille O’Neal, Shaun White, Jeff Foxworthy, Kenan Thompson, John Kassir, and Frank Welker.

Before we start, know this: I love the first SMURFS movie.

If that makes you question my judgment or hate me or think I’ve ingested all the shrooms from Smurf Village, you might want to shuffle on to something else right now. SMURFS 2 does not have the same amount of charm as the first movie, but it’s still a simple, pleasant, bright, enjoyable, kids movie. It’s loads of fun and has a fantastic message about the power of figuring out who you really are and embracing that person, that “it doesn’t matter where you came from, what matters is who you choose to be.” There are so many “chosen one” movies, that it’s wonderful to see a movie subvert that and demonstrate that it’s possible for anyone to do the right thing.

The film largely resolves around the fact that Smurfette (Katy Perry) was created by Gargamel as a “Naughty” (grey Smurf-like creatures) but that Papa Smurf (Jonathan Winters) helped transform her into a Smurf through magic and Smurfette’s desire to change. It’s Smurfette’s birthday and she thinks all of the Smurfs have forgotten about it, when really they just want her to go away so they can properly plan her surprise party. She’s also depressed because she has nightmares on her birthday about going back to being a Naughty.

It’s almost impossible, if you know anything about her story or her music, to not read a whole lot of Katy Perry’s life story into this movie. Songs like “Firework” and “Roar” champion the idea of self-acceptance and empowerment, and that’s Smurfette’s story in SMURFS 2. When she’s kidnapped by the Naughties – Vexy (Christina Ricci) and Hackus (J.B. Smoove) – so Gargamel can try to force Papa Smurf’s secret Smurf-making formula out of her, Smurfette’s self-doubt about where she came from and whether they really like and accept her as one of them causes her to bond with the Naughties. Gargamel tries to butter her up as he plays on the fact that he’s her real father, but Smurfette only gives up the formula to save Vexy and Hackus from dying. Vexy and Hackus are so touched by first, her friendship, and second, the willingness of Papa Smurf to accept them into the Smurf family that they end up leaving Gargamel behind and starting a new life in Smurf Village.

Neil Patrick Harris is back as Patrick Winslow and the crushingly adorable Jayma Mays returns as his wife, Grace. They have a child now, named Blue, and we find out that Patrick has a stepdad, Victor (Brendan Gleeson), that he resents because he’s a bit of an embarrassment and for taking the place of his real father. I wasn’t enamored with the addition of Victor early on in the film – he’s well-meaning but loud, the kind of guy who enjoys being the center of attention. He’s pleasantly self-absorbed, quick to shrug off bad times, and always willing to help. Gleeson’s performance of Victor’s positivity totally won me over, however, despite those initial trepidations, and Gleeson’s “I can’t do this anymore” moment with the ever-critical Patrick gives the film some nice emotional weight. He’s here to give a human version of Smurfette’s plot, with Patrick in the Smurfette role and Victor as the Papa Smurf-styled caregiver. As painful as it is to watch NPH being a grump through the movie, the moment where he realizes just what Victor has done for him and what a jerk he’s been makes the long slog worth it.

I’m not a huge Hank Azaria fan but he’s perfect as Gargamel, who has managed to become a world famous magician and yet still wants more. The best part of having Gargamel around, however, is his cat, Azrael (Frank Welker), who manages to steal just about every scene he’s in.

Much credit goes to the computer folks for creating very believable Smurfs. The emotional moments in the film work, in part, because of that believability. The scenes between Papa Smurf and Smurfette come off beautifully, and the computer techs help Perry and Winters make those scenes work.

I would be completely remiss if I did not mention the great Jonathan Winters, who passed away a few months prior to the release of SMURFS 2. Winters is really fantastic here, playing the kindly old Smurf who wears his emotions openly and is always ready with some wise advice, for Smurf and human alike.

The almost universal critical hatred of the SMURFS movies is a bit beyond me. I can certainly understand not liking these movies, but the negativity towards them is so overwhelming that these movies join the list of other properties in which my opinion stands in stark contrast to the general consensus. SMURFS 2 is bright and fun with a really great message. Yeah, there are some fart jokes, and yeah, there’s not enough Jayma Mays (she’s fantastic again, especially her spy routine at the hotel when she’s trying to discover Gargamel’s room) or Clumsy Smurf (Anton Yelchin), but I like that they shifted more of the focus over to Smurfette, and John Oliver’s Vanity is consistently hilarious. When Papa Smurf tells him that if Smurfette gives the secret formula to Gargamel, it will be the end of all Smurfs, his aghast response is, “Even the handsome ones?”

What makes SMURFS and SMURFS 2 connect with me most, though, is the emotional arcs that the characters experience. It’s nice to watch a movie about good people (human and Smurf, alike) who work with each other to stop bad people. These aren’t complex stories and characters are drawn broadly, but then, it’s a kids movie. What’s impressive is that the film manages to keep things simple on the plot front while still delivering a strong emotional narrative. When Smurfette introduces Vexy to Grace as her sister and Grace warmly greets Vexy by saying, “That makes her my sister, too” … I’m sorry, if you’re so cynical and so jaded that moments like that don’t hit home at least a little, maybe you were never a kid who ever had any self-doubt.

I did. If that’s why the film resonates with me, so be it. I’m looking forward to SMURFS 3.

__________

Adventures of the Five (Book 2): The Christmas Engine

Adventures of the Five (Book 2): The Christmas Engine

ADVENTURES OF THE FIVE: THE CHRISTMAS ENGINE, is available now for the Kindle and in paperback form.

The official book description:

The Five are back!

It’s March in the Meadow and Christmas is the furthest thing from the minds of Farm the Half-Wolverine, Aurora the Fox, Jasper the Porcupine, Flake the Rabbit, and Notter the Otter. A visit from the Christmas Ghosts changes all that. The North Pole is under attack by unknown assailants, Santa Claus (both of them!) is dying, and it’s up to the Five to save Christmas!

The Five do not travel to the North Pole alone, however, as Aurora’s little sister, Pyxis, surprises them by tagging along. The young fox faces a series of trials alongside the Five she could never have imagined facing, and learns the value of friendship and the true meaning of sisterhood. Can Pyxis save Farm’s life, win the Reindeer Games, and become the Queen of the Polar Bears? Which member of the Five gets swallowed by a whale? Who discovers a buried secret deep below the North Pole? Can the Five save Santa Claus (both of them!)?

Joined by old friends and confronted by new enemies, it’s up to the Five to journey to the top of the world and stop the ancient evil contained within the Scarlet Nutcracker!

Big Orange Toy Box is a new imprint committed to quality, adventure-driven entertainment for an all ages audience.

THE CHRISTMAS ENGINE is the sequel to THE COMING OF FROST,which is available again for the Kindle and in paperback with a new cover and new interior formatting to make it easier to read and put it in line with the cover/layout of CHRISTMAS ENGINE.

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