The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


August 9, 2013

Parental duty only reason to see 'Smurfs 2'

JOPLIN, Mo. — Parenting is full of challenges, and none are more trying than when I heard these words last week from my daughters: "Daddy, we want to see ÔSmurfs 2!'"

It's not that I'm anti-Smurf. I enjoyed the cartoon series as much as the next child of the '80s.

But the first movie was an abomination. It was a bastardization and cash grab; a way to separate nostalgic parents wanting to share childhood memories with their kids from their money. But the movie made a ton, so, of course, they made a sequel (be forewarned: "Smurfs 3" was greenlit before the second movie ever hit theaters).

This time around, Gargamel (Hank Azaria) has become a famous and successful magician, using Smurf essence to allow him to perform tricks that would otherwise be impossible. But he's running out of this essence, so he creates creatures called Naughties (essentially Smurfs minus the blue), but finds that they must be blue to give him the magic that he needs.

So he kidnaps Smurfette and takes her to Paris, a setting that certainly wasn't chosen to shore up the box office of a country that was very supportive of the first movie.

Other Smurfs come to try to rescue her, as does Neal Patrick Harris and Jayma Hayes as Patrick and Grace Winslow.

Will Smurfette and the clan escape back home or will they be put in the Smurf juicer to allow their essence to be extracted? If you really don't know, then you are the ideal audience for this movie.

Now, I'm all for bad movies. But they need to have something to redeem them. I'll sit through a "Sharknado" that knows what it is offering is preposterous and thus can have fun with itself, or I'll give something like "Plan 9 from Outer Space" a shot, because it is so earnest in its desire to be good in spite of its overwhelming badness.

But what I can't stand is a movie that fails at everything except being bad. "Smurfs 2" is such a movie.

From a hack script that took five (!) screenwriters to craft to the pointless direction and pathetic computer-generated creatures, it takes the worst parts of everything and rolls them into a big ball of crap.

The movie strives hard for earnestness, trying to distinguish between the bond a stepfather has for his indifferent son and the bond that Gargamel should have toward his Naughties, but because all the characters are equally annoying, you feel as much sympathy for the sadly out of place Brendan Gleeson (as Patrick's overly earnest stepdad) as you do for the Naughties, who Gargamel treats as though they had somehow forced him to watch this movie.

The saddest part of the movie isn't that it took a reported $105 million to bring this atrocity to the screen. It is that this is the last movie we'll have to remember Jonathan Winters by. I never begrudge an actor chasing a paycheck (except perhaps for Azaria, who's probably wallpapered his mansion with "The Simpsons" money), but it is an absolute shame that Winters passed away before he could undo some of the damage done by this flaccid film.

I get accused of being overly negative at times, so I'd like to at least offer a positive spin: You often hear stories about the concerns of teen pregnancy. I'd like to propose that we begin showing "Smurfs 2" in school. Once students realize that if they have kids, they're going to be subjected to more movies like this, they'll probably abstain until they're 30.

You've seen the advertisements for both this movie and its predecessor in which the clever marketers replaced very adult obscenities with some variation of the word smurf, theoretically making it acceptable for kids while allowing adults to giggle at their crudeness.

To properly describe this movie, let's borrow a page from their book: "Smurfs 2" is a pile of smurf.

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