is a time-honored classic introduced in comic form more than 60 years ago, then brought to television in the '80s. Bringing the small blue creatures onto the big screen and into the human world in 2011 was a worrisome task, but was accomplished with relatively little pain thanks to a good casting director. Unfortunately the sequel, The Smurfs 2
, makes some significant changes that will be received differently by varying age groups.
Trapped in the human world, Gargamel (Hank Azaria) harnessed the magic of Smurf's essence to become a famous magician. Meanwhile offstage, he continued to plot to destroy Smurf Village and its inhabitants. His latest plan is to use his newly created Naughties, Vexy (Christina Ricci) and Hackus (J.B. Smoove), to convince Smurfette (Katy Perry) to reveal the formula that allowed Papa (Jonathan Winters) to turn her into a real blue Smurf; then Gargamel could harvest all the essence he wanted. Unfortunately their task is made easier when Smurfette feels neglected by her friends and needs a place to belong. To save her, Papa and a group of Smurfs once again turn to Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and his family for help.
The less-than-thinly veiled parallel stories unfolding is a pretty modern view of families. While Patrick rides the waves of fatherhood, he must confront his own daddy issues involving the biological father that abandoned him and the stepfather (Brendan Gleeson) who raised him. This is juxtaposed with Smurfette's dilemma when she's forced to choose between Gargamel, her creator, and Papa Smurf, her adopted father. By the end, it's pretty heavy-handed about the moral of the story; but it's a narrative not told often enough so it's mostly acceptable.
The best part about the first film is it didn't stray far from the source in character rationale or story structure. All the Smurfs behaved as expected, and Gargamel and Azrael's appearances were welcome comic relief. However the studio seems to have embraced this favour a little too heartily, amplifying elements that were once charming to levels of annoyance. Gargamel and Azrael's interactions are far more common than before, thus losing their allure. As the dialogue and characters are simplified to accommodate humor for younger viewers, it essentially alienates older members of the audience.
While the first film attempted to have a wider appeal, the sequel casts a smaller net. Even the poke at high-strung parents is restricted to a single joke. It simply feels as if filmmakers took a step backwards with this picture.
Director: Raja Gosnell
Starring: Hank Azaria
, Neil Patrick Harris
and Jayma Mays