The Smurfs is a great example of what the difference is between a movie made for kids and a movie made for the whole family. As a matter of fact, I’m probably going to start using the words “kid movie” as an insult as “family movie” as a compliment. More on that later.
For now, let’s focus on The Smurfs and the first live-action movie. It was non-offensive, safe, generic, and completely predictable as most “kid movies” are. It reveled in the cliché of taking cartoon characters and dropping them into the real world (just like Fat Albert, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Space Jam, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Yogi Bear, Enchanted, Garfield, Looney Tunes: Back in Action… it’s such an original idea, after all) and having them go through the whole “fish out of water” scenario with Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays.
For some reason, though, despite the fact that it was pretty lazy filmmaking, the thing made about a million truckloads of money and so, another trip to the well was inevitable. In The Smurfs 2, Gargamel, the evil Smurf-hunting wizard, is still trapped in the real world and has become a world famous magician with loads of money, fans, and a luxurious lifestyle. For some strange reason, though… he wants to throw it all away and rule the world!
Now, I know that is the go-to motivation for any cartoon villain, but really…? Money, acclaim, and worldwide fame and you’re going to give it up to rule a bunch of blue asexual communist miniature hillbillies who live in mushrooms?
Gargamel, to throw away his fame and rule a bunch of fungus dwellers, rehashes an old experiment and creates two Naughties (yes, that is what he calls them) to kidnap Smurfette (who he also created some years prior but she turned good thanks to Papa Smurf, love, or some other BS) so that he can extract more magical Smurf essence which sounds way dirtier than what it actually is.
A lot like you can expect, The Smurfs 2 is really just more of the same stuff. Like every other kids movie that is pooped out into theaters, it doesn’t try very hard and sets a very low bar. On one hand, it’s kind of refreshing to see goals aimed obviously so low, on the other hand… low goals make 90 minutes seem like an eternity.
For one thing, there are Smurf puns. Painful smurfing Smurf puns. You almost get the sense that writing the Smurf puns must have been the writer’s favorite job because the word is used every few seconds. It’s really fun, though, if you replace the word “Smurf” with the f-word in your head.
The wit never really elevates from that point.
As I said, this is a kids movie. It’s tantamount to jingling your keys in the face of a baby and watching them laugh. This is the kind of junk you put on a TV during Thanksgiving so the kids will shut up for an hour and a half and let you have a conversation.
Kids movies, you see, aren’t defined by wit, good writing, passion, or even extra effort. They are bright, they are simple, they are non-offensive, and they are forgettable. They are meant for kids and some questionably intelligent adults, but not for the whole family.
Family movies have something for everyone. This is Wall-E or The Croods or Holes… they are fun for kids, but leave something for adults as well so they don’t feel like slitting their wrists when one too many puns assaults them. Family movies are bright and funny, but also deep when they have to be. No one is going to look at either one of the Smurfs movies in ten years and say, “Wow, I never got that when I was a kid!” because there is nothing to get. Smurfs 2 leaves all of its sickly blue little cards on the table and says, “Take it or leave it.”
The cast phones it in – even the voice actors and, can someone tell me who’s bright idea it was to make Katy Perry the voice of Smurfette? Was every other actress in Hollywood busy that day?
Smurfs 2 is what it is and there ain’t nothing more to it. It’s bland, it’s forgettable… it’s the Fruit Stripe gum of movies. It’s not even worthy of great hatred.
The sad thing is, and I know I’m going to get hell for this, but The Smurfs could have been a decent to great fantasy movie. A little less real world, a little more like that movie Epic, and it could have been great.
As it is, this is a thing that just exists. It leaves no emotional impact at all. It’s not a movie… it’s an object.
We’ve got to figure out how to keep Raja Gosnell’s hands off of more cartoon properties before The Jetsons crash into Ice Cube’s garage.