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Article by Teddy Durgin

"The Smurfs" Sequel Has This Critic Feeling Blue

You can marvel at many things with regards to "The Smurfs 2." The visual effects are pretty seamless. Humans interact convincingly with computer-generated creations throughout. I also read where this sequel has already lined up around $150 million in crossover brand promotions. That's impressive, too. But do you wanna know what floored me the most as the end credits rolled? That there were five writers credited with this screenplay!!! FIVE! Seriously, how much talent does it take to write lines like "I nearly Smurfed myself" and "Are you Smurfin' kidding me?!" And I'm sure you know what my next question is ... How do I get in on some of THAT money?! Who do I have to Smurf?! Because I think I'd be the perfect guy for the job. No, check that. I'd be the SMURF-ect guy for the job! Get it?! I'd be the- Oh, alright. I'll stop there. "The Smurfs 2" is one of those flicks that will prove fairly entertaining for the 8-and-unders. For the rest of us, though, this is a pretty drawn-out and even ham-fisted sequel that uses the Smurfs' community of love and acceptance as an extended metaphor to how we should practice love and acceptance in our real world. That's always a nice message. But, here, it indeed gets extended, underlined, circled, high-lighted, italicized, bold-printed and generally repeated over and over again throughout. The plot involves the evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria) kidnapping Smurfette (voice of Katy Perry) from Smurfland and taking her to Paris so that he can force her to give up Papa Smurf's formula for turning gray Smurfs blue. His plan is to harness that Smurf essence so he can be all-powerful. Papa Smurf (voice of the late Jonathan Winters) assembles a platoon of Smurfs and once again enlists the aid of humans Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and Grace (Jayma Mays) to rescue Smurfette. Once in Paris, Patrick clashes with his stepfather, Victor (Brendan Gleeson), over trying to replace his real father. Papa Smurf, meanwhile, is heartbroken to find Smurfette growing closer to her biological "father" Gargamel and her two manufactured siblings, Vexy (voice of Christina Ricci) and Hackus (voice of J.B. Smoove), a couple of gray Smurfs who Gargamel has created as part of his fiendish experiment to create an army of bad Smurfs to rule both worlds. One of the main problems with "The Smurfs 2" is that it suffers from a lack of interesting Smurfs to follow. Clumsy and Grouchy Smurf return from the first movie with nothing interesting to do and are joined by the one-joke Vanity Smurf, who loves to look at himself in the mirror ... and that's pretty much it. They never gel into a cohesive rescue team, because they always seem to be at a distance to the main action. Seriously, five screenwriters, and the best they can do is Grouchy, Clumsy, and Vanity? Why not let your imaginations run a bit wild? Why not take a couple of chances? On the one hand, I'm thankful we didn't have a Liberal Smurf and a Conservative Smurf bickering throughout. And I'm not asking for this thing to be given any dramatic weight with a Physically Abused Smurf or Homeless Smurf. But why not try something even slightly daring with some comic potential? Like Vigilante Smurf or Recently Divorced Smurf? "The Smurfs 2" could have used more wry humor, too. Harris, in particular, seems confined. I liked his cynical asides in the first "Smurfs," like when he asked the little blue guys if they were born with their names or did they get them later when their one dominant personality trait emerged. There's none of that in this film. And I felt Smurfing robbed by those five screenwriters!

"The Smurfs" is rated PG for action and mild, rude humor.


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