Movie review: What the Smurf! ‘Smurfs 2’ hits low expectations

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLEAugust 2, 2013 

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Oops, looks like the Smurfs stumbled in making “Smurfs 2.”

  • THE SMURFS 2

    No stars

    Rated: PG for some rude humor and action. Starring: Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, Brendan Gleeson. Director: Raja Gosnell. Running time: 104 minutes. Theaters: In 2D and 3D at Edwards 22 and Edwards 9 in Boise, Edwards 14 and Edwards 12 in Nampa, Majestic 18 in Meridian.

It’s part of a parent’s defense mechanism to walk into a “The Smurfs” sequel with low expectations.

You know there will probably be slapstick violence, a retread story and indignities for the human cast members. A Smurf will probably break wind in a bathtub. And at some point during the tired insertion of the word “smurf” as an all-purpose action verb, it will be substituted for a profanity. (“Are you smurfing kidding me?”)

But there’s a dark and gratuitously negative vibe to “The Smurfs 2” that makes it unfit even for the undiscriminating young movie-goers that made the first one a hit. Save the $20 and just take your kid in the back yard to pull the wings off flies or burn ants with a magnifying glass. There’s so much torture and suffering in this movie, it starts to feel like “Zero Dark Smurfy.”

There was a sporadic wit to the first “The Smurfs,” and lead actor Neil Patrick Harris made an honest effort playing live-action foil to the animated Papa Smurf, Smurfette, Clumsy Smurf and friends. For the sequel, Harris seems aggressively disinterested, as if each scene began after he got off the phone chewing out his agent. Worse yet, Harris’ character — a bit fussy, but likable in the first film — is written as a full-blown smurf-hole for the sequel. You might start rooting for Gargamel.

There is nothing to root for in “The Smurfs 2,” other than a box office disaster to prevent a sequel.

It’s hard to decide where to start explaining the plot. There are five writers credited for the screenplay, and it’s difficult to imagine any two were ever in the same room at the same time.

In no particular order: Smurfette is kidnapped by two horrible Smurfs called the Naughties; Gargamel plots to take over the world by sucking the life force from the Smurfs; Patrick (Harris) harshly rejects his clownish father-in-law Victor; Gargamel captures the Smurf rescue team and puts them in cages; Smurfette and the Naughties vandalize a candy store; pretty much everyone in the film brutalizes Azrael the cat.

Gone from the first film is the charm of Smurf Village, which offered a modern spin on the 1980s Hanna-Barbera animated TV show.

There are scattered moments when a not-horrible movie peeks through, such as the quick introduction — and quicker exit — of Passive Aggressive Smurf, voiced by Jimmy Kimmel.

These scenes are outnumbered 20-to-1 by wince-inducing moments. Example: When Patrick’s stepfather is turned into a duck and sets other ducks free from a restaurant, Harris is made to utter the line “What are you, Martin Luther Wing?” Reminder: this film had FIVE SCREENWRITERS.

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