In “The Smurfs 2,” the next installment of the macabre Grand Guignol saga of sin and retribution, evil wizard Gargamel returns with another dastardly plan to blanch, boil and puree the adorably hued diminutive denizens of Smurf Village, and paint the city of Paris blue with their mangled remains. No, wait, that was my burrito-induced nightmare last night. Sorry…
In “The Smurfs 2” Gargamel does indeed return, and kidnaps Smurfette in his bid to harness the power of the Smurf Essence and rule the world from his head quarters within the Paris Opera House, where he has become a showbiz sensation for his wondrous magic. Papa and the other Smurfs must journey back to our world again, and with the help of their human pals Patrick and Grace, rescue Smurfette and defeat Gargamel, his cat Azreal, and his two new Smurf-like creations, the Naughties.
No better, and no worse than most other boilerplate kids movies of recent vintage, the Smurfs sequel hits all the expected beats in its 105-minute run time: pop culture references, breathless CGI action, sarcastic post-modern quips, doses of sentimental nods to family and friendship. Covering with groaning effort what its intended audience seems to expect, it plays like a script by committee. Sure enough, there are no less than five (5!) people credited for the screenplay, plus four story credits.
Less surprisingly, given the tone of the original comic, there’s a gentle spirit at work in the film that couldn’t disturb even the most delicate sensibilities. Those five screenwriters spare us the usual plethora of kid-friendly bodily function humor. There’s only one fart joke, for instance. There’s still the usual grab-bag of limp gags, like the proto-gay posing of Vanity Smurf, and treacly heart-felt nonsense, like Patrick’s troubled relationship with his step-father. But you take progress where you can get it.
Most younger kids will find something to like in the broad comedy and brisk pacing as the Smurfs race around Paris. Parents might doze off midway, but not the tykes. The animation is well-crafted and seamlessly integrated with the live action characters. Setting the film in Paris yields some interesting visual moments, though I’m not so sure Paris will be proud of the association. There’s a wondrous flight sequence that takes you around, over and through the flying buttresses and arches of Notre Dame, the only moment where the film really takes off as something more than routine.
As Gargamel, Hank Azaria steals the show, hamming it up fearlessly, throwing in some obvious improvised asides, and generally having a shameless good time. Given the comedic chops he has demonstrated on tv, you would think they could have come up with something funny for Neil Patrick Harris to do at some point, but I guess with a half-dozen quippy blue runts and an over-acting cat running around, somebody has to play the straight man. The presence of the stellar actor Brendan Gleeson as Patrick’s step-father is just a mystery for the ages, I guess.
Not as mysterious as an entire village with only one female, but a mystery nevertheless.
“The Smurfs 2” is presented in 1080p high definition, in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and is “mastered in 4K for maximum picture and expanded color” (with enabled playback equipment). This is a very good-looking disc, with excellent definition of the CGI characters, and a seamless look to the blend of animation and live action. The splashes of bright color have a nice zing to them, and the detail of the CGI characters (Azreal’s fur, Smurfette’s hair) is excellent. There are subtitle options for English, English SDH, French and Spanish.
The default audio track is 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, and has all the bases covered in balance and clarity, though you might find yourself wishing for less clarity when Katy Perry talks. Maybe for the sake of younger viewers, the boomy stuff doesn’t seem to have quite the punch of other blu-rays I’ve viewed. There are options for English Audio Descriptive service, French versions of 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Descriptive Service, and a Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital track, as well.
Available on both Blu-ray and DVD versions:
- “The Smurfs: The Legend of Smurfy Hollow”: a harmless animated short film, a variation on the Headless Horseman story. Other than the CGI opening, this is done in old-school 2D animation style, like the tv series.
- A set of deleted scenes, with a couple of amusing Hank Azaria bits
- “Daddy’s Little Girl: The Journey of Smurfette”: the role and personality of Smurfette, with interviews with the voice of Smurfette, Katy Perry, and the filmmakers. The phrase “emotional complexity” is used without irony.
- “Animating Azreal”: the process of mixing real and digital footage to create the truly annoying performance of Gargamel’s sidekick.
These extras are available only on the Blu-ray disc:
- “The Naughties: The Tale of Hackus and Vexy”: interviews with the filmmakers, and with JB Smoove, voice of Hackus, and Christina Ricci, voice of Vexy
- “The Puurrfect Companion: Azrael’s Tail”: interesting featurette about the real and digital cats in the film. Azaria is a hoot again, and voice actor Frank Welker is seen at work doing the varied growls and meowls of Azreal’s voice.
- “Evolution of The Naughties”: aimed at the younger viewers, this featurette looks at the origins of the look and personality of the two newest characters in the Smurf world.
- “Smurf-O-Vision 2 App”: activities for kids, and an app that you can use to sync with the movie and interact with it while viewing. Because you need something to do while watching a movie…
Barely more than routine wallet-hoovering, but with Hank Azaria working it like a pro as Gargamel, “The Smurfs 2” is everything one would expect from the film with that title.