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The Smurfs 2 (2013)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/3/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/5/2013
We live in a world where it seems that sooner or later, there is going to be a film version of every licensed character or product. Just think about most any popular animated TV show from the past, toy, or comic book character, and you'll most likely realize that they've hit the big screen. Thus, it's weird that it took so long for a Smurfs movie to materialize. The Smurfs had their heyday in the United States in the 1980s, when the Saturday morning cartoon was running and everyone I knew was collecting the small, plastic figurines of the characters. So, the 2011 filmThe Smurfs felt like a late arrival to the party, and the paltry quality of the movie didn't help matters. Still, the film was a minor hit, and thus we get The Smurfs 2, which, by logic, should feel even more delinquent. At this point, is there any way that this movie can be good?
The Smurfs 2 begins some time after the events seen in the first film. Smurfette (voiced by Katy Perry) has been having nightmares about her creator, Gargamel (Hank Azaria), which make her wonder if she truly belongs in Smurf Village. Despite Papa Smurf's (voiced by Jonathan Winters) assurances, Smurfette is still confused. Things get worse when she mistakes the other Smurf's plans for a surprise party as evidence that they've forgotten her birthday. Meanwhile, Gargamel, along with his cat, Azrael (voiced by Frank Welker), has become the toast of the town in Paris due to his magic show. (Which, unbeknownst to the audience, encompasses real magic.) However, his magic is running out and he needs more "Smurf essence". He's created two Smurf-like creatures called Naughties -- Vexy (voiced by Christina Ricci) and Hackus (voiced by J.B. Smoove) -- and, using a portal, Gargamel sends them to Smurf Village. There, Vexy convinces Smurfette to go with her. Fearing the worst, Papa Smurf immediately puts together a rescue team which inadvertently contains Vanity (voiced by John Oliver), Grouchy (voiced by George Lopez) and Clumsy (voiced by Anton Yelchin). They travel to New York to enlist the help of Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and his wife, Grace (Jayma Mays). This group hurries to Paris in order to save Smurfette.
Say what you will about The Smurfs 2, the movie certainly doesn't skimp on story. All of the above synopsis takes place in the first 15 minutes! From there, we get a plot which involves the Naughties trying to convince Smurfette that they can be a part of their family, while Patrick and Papa Smurf attempt to devise a plan where they can save the little blonde Smurf. The last thing that I want to do is knock a licensed-character based kid's movie for being overwritten, but there is a lot going on here. Having said that, it doesn't get truly convoluted until the third act, where Gargamel ramps up his plan to nab the Smurf's powers.
However, as we all know, a dense script doesn't equal a good movie, and given how bad The Smurfs was, I wasn't expecting much from this sequel. Maybe it was that lack of expectation which gave the movie an edge, as The Smurfs 2 is definitely better than the first one. (It would have to be, now wouldn't it.) If nothing else, the first movie was simply too thin, as it's only concern was the Smurfs visiting our world and their attempts to avoid Gargamel and return to Smurf Village. As noted above, we get a more textured plot here, and while it doesn't have any real "twists" per se, I was surprised by some of it. I don't think I'm giving anything away here by saying that the Smurfette dilemma isn't solved immediately and many of the Smurf characters are separated for much of the movie. The movie really takes a risk by casting Patrick in a negative light. There is (yet another) sub-plot concerning Patrick's feelings toward his step-father (Brendan Gleeson), and his petulant attitude doesn't make him very endearing.
Probably the most surprising thing about The Smurfs 2 was how amusing it was. Now, this isn't a laugh-a-minute comedy and most of the jokes are incredibly corny, but some of them actually work and are quite humorous. Sure, we get the typical live-action kids movie slapstick type jokes here, but there are also some lines, especially throw-away lines for the background, which are actually funny. (Simply listen closely during the opening when all of the Smurfs are talking at once.) Again, I'm not implying that this is a classic comedy, but so many kids movies wouldn't know a good joke if it bit them, so hearing something which was actually laugh-worthy is notable.
Given the lack of true depth in the franchise, I guess that The Smurfs 2 is about as good of a Smurf movie as we can expect. Hank Azaria throws himself into his role as Azrael, and the CG-animation of the Smurfs themselves and blends very well with the live-action backgrounds. (Just look at the detail in the Smurf's clothing.) Little one should love the movie, assuming that they like Smurfs, and the inclusion of an actual story and some good one-liners should keep adults entertained. Given that these movies are more popular in the rest of the world (The Smurfs made three times as much internationally as it did in the U.S.), we'll most likely see a third entry and if the series continues on its current trajectory, it will actually be a good movie!
The Smurfs 2 really brings it with the duck jokes on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 24 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look fantastic, with the blues dominating, of course, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is excellent (again, look at the Smurf's hats) and the depth is good, even in the 2D version. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are very good, most notably during the opening where we can hear the voice of various Smurfs coming from the right or left channels. The surround sound effects are nicely done during the action scenes, and some of the effects are very detailed. The subwoofer effects add oomph! to Gargamel's magic, but they are never overpowering. This set also includes a Blu-ray 3D which has the film letterboxed at 1.85:1 and contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 23/11 Mbps. The 3D here is very, very impressive. The depth is amazing and the characters are always clearly separate from the background. This version takes many opportunities to "throw" things at the screen and these effects are superb. This Disc carries the same audio as the 2D Disc.
The Smurfs 2 Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. "The Smurfs: The Legend of Smurfy Hollow" (22 minutes) is a short which opens as CG-animation (like the movie), but then becomes hand-drawn. As the title implies, this is the Smurf's take on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The Disc contains five DELETED SCENES which run about 4 minutes. "Daddy's Little Girl: The Journey of Smurfette" (6 minutes) looks at how Smurfette is the center of the story in this film, and how Papa Smurf and Gargamel are both fathers to her. The creative team and the actors discuss the new additions to the clan in "The Naughties! The Tale of Hackus and Vexy" (6 minutes). "The Purrfect Companion: Azrael's Tail" (5 minutes) explores how the character has developed in this movie and we get to see the legendary Frank Welker at work, while "Animating Azrael" (3 minutes) show us how real cats and CG-cats were used to play the feline. (There are a some great cat faces here.) We see how the look and animation of the new characters were created in "Evolution of The Naughties" (4 minutes).
Review Copyright 2013 by Mike Long