I pretty much despise that a movie like The Smurfs 2 exists in the world. But if it must exist, this is about the best that we can hope for.
It was inevitable we’d be here again, two years after nostalgic parents thought, “Hey, there’s a thing with which I’m familiar!” and dragged along their children in a cycle of pop-culture aesthetic violence for which there should be some kind of public-service campaign. The little blue people are back in the human world—revisiting their old pal Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and his family—after Smurfette (Katy Perry) is kidnapped by the bumbling wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria) and his gray, Smurf-like creations the Naughties because something something Smurf essence something. Around 100 minutes later, there are explosions and a musical number.
It’s yet again largely tedious and unfunny to anyone over the age of 8, built entirely around cartoonish physical humor and the presumed hilarity of replacing any possible swear word with the word “smurf” or “smurfy.” And director Raja Gosnell continues to be America’s leading cinematic expert on having human actors like the enthusiastic Azaria respond to CGI animals with saucer-eyed reaction takes.
Yet there’s also a surprisingly not-sucky idea swirling around here, as Patrick contends with his anger issues toward his seemingly genial stepfather (Brendan Gleeson), even as Smurfette similarly wrestles with whether she belongs more with her creator, Gargamel, or with her adopted Smurf family. It’s a little hard to take completely seriously, wedged in between the fart jokes; it’s also a genuinely different angle than family-oriented fare usually takes. So, while the collision between 3-D mayhem and sentimentality may still be jarring, at least it’s a kind of sentimentality—loving a family that has chosen to love you—that gives you a break from wanting to tear out your sensory organs.
THE SMURFS 2
Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria, Katy Perry