Title: The Smurfs 2
HTS Overall Score:87
Just in time for the holiday season, Sony Pictures has released what is sure to be a kid pleasing stocking stuffer: The Smurfs 2. If you’re looking for a potential gift for a little one in your life, then definitely read on! For those of you that were children in the early 1980s, you’ll undoubtedly remember the Smurfs as a Saturday morning cartoon produced using CEL animation techniques. What you probably don’t know is that the Smurfs originally debuted as a comic in the late 1950s compliments of a Belgian cartoonist that referred to them as "les Schtroumpfs.” So their history runs much deeper than their 1981 debut on NBC network television. Hollywood, being the re-inventive engine it has become, brought the lovable blue gnomes back from the grave in 2011 with a 3D release blandly titled The Smurfs. It was mildly popular amongst movie goers but was a kid pleaser and a merchandising platform, drumming up just enough dollars to encourage a second go-around, which brings us to The Smurfs 2.
In an interesting twist, both new feature presentations rely on a live action and animation format (which combines elements of live actors and real sets with computer animated graphics). The Smurfs and Smurf Village along with a cat named Azreil (Mr. Krinkle) and a few other creatures are given the CGI treatment while the villain of the films, Gargamel (Hank Azaria), and one of the human heroes named Patrick Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris) are live actors. These films pull-off this type of production arrangement quite well and the marriage of cartoonland and the real world is effectively handled as to make it look entirely natural.
In The Smurfs 2, the evil Gargamel (who utterly dislikes all that the Smurfs represent) and his silly mumbling cat are back in action. Using captured magic from the Smurfs (the magic that turns them blue, called “Essence”), he’s touring the world as a conjurer of optical illusions with a show called “The Essence of Evil.” Gargamel has audiences eating out of his hand as he whips around his magic wand wielding his magical powers. But Gargamel wants more. He wants to rule the earth with his powers, but he can't accomplish that without large reserves of Essence. His quest is to learn how to make unlimited quantities of Essence.
This leads Gargamel to cook-up a plan involving two “naughties” which are little Smurfs that he’s created. These naughties lack Essence, which causes them to appear white. Gargamel plans to jettison one to Smurf-land to capture another naughty turned blue Smurf, Smurfette (voice: Katy Perry), in order to learn the secret formula for Essence. Along the way we are introduced to some real world Smurf friends composed of a small family and a stepfather. Once Smurfette is stolen from Smurf Village, the Smurfs send a small task force to rescue her. They eventually team-up with their real world friends to battle Gargamel and save Smurfette.
The film features situational comedy and child humor paired with loads of slap stick humor. Let’s face it, animated studios like Pixar and DreamWorks have spoiled us rotten with movies featuring sophisticated humor that entertains children and adults alike. If you’re looking for that in The Smurfs 2, then you’ll undoubtedly be disappointed. The film’s humor is aimed at a younger generation audience that's perfectly happy with utter silliness and having their hand held with a telegraphed plot.
The acting, primarily referring to Neil Patrick Harris (the Smurf friendly Patrick) and Hank Azaria (Gargamel), is actually halfway decent. Azaria plays a great diabolical wand-wielding agent of evil and puts just enough quirkiness into his role to make him very amusing. He’s rather harmless as far as evil doers go and his scare factor (for younger viewers) is relatively low. Patrick Harris isn’t anything particularly special, delivering a serviceable role. That is to say, he gives just about what one would expect for a made-for-kids cartoonish movie.
Now, on to the nitty-gritty. Is this film any good? I’m bucking the trend of gutter reviews that other critics bestowed upon The Smurfs 2 following its theatrical release. This film is deserving of a solid three stars (that’s thinking as an adult with kids in mind). It’s easy to recommend it to parents as a blind buy or rental for their children; most kids will think its quality entertainment. It’s good lighthearted fun with an excellent production value and a stunning presentation. By my estimation, it’s target age range is 5-10 years old. But, let’s not take my word for it...I’m going to let you hear from my two in-house assistant critics. They are girls that fall in the 9 to 11 year old age range which puts them squarely in the elementary to pre-tweener crowd. They screened the movie together in my reference laboratory of theater magic, followed by individual debriefings. The youngest gives the movie a glowing four-and-half stars. She said the cat, Azreil, was hysterical and the highlight of the movie. It was hard to extract any criticism from her, but she did admit that some of the more sappy family moments involving Neil Patrick Harris’ character were yawn worthy. The tweener critic, on the other hand, gives the film four stars because of its humor. Interestingly, she also thought that some of the family moments were just a bit over the top. So there you have it, The Smurfs 2 receives a stamp of approval from two members of its target audience.
PG for some rude humor and action.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news/ts23.png[/img]If only The Smurfs 2 had been given a proper 2.40:1 aspect ratio...oh, what could have been! That goes without saying that Sony Entertainment’s MPEG-4 AVC transfer is nearly flawless. In fact, it’s better than that...it is spectacular. Colors abound, the film’s image (both animated and live action) explodes with dazzling colors; reds are especially velvety and vibrant. Blacks are spot-on and many of the electric blues used during magic scenes simmer and sizzle with a tantalizing coolness. The film has a slight tannish overtone, but is nearly neutral. Rich details can be seen in nearly every scene of the movie. The textures and variations on the Smurfs’ skin and the intricacies of their eyes are simply stunning. Other fine details, such as the small random fuzz and cloth grains on the Smurfs’ hats, Gargamel’s skin imperfections, and the stitching on the actors’ clothing, are easily visible with wonderful clarity. There’s zero evidence of banding, blocking, or crush (shadow detail is exemplary).
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news//ts24.png[/img]The Smurfs 2 is a feast for the ears from start to finish, delivering the goods on the shoulders of a beautiful DTS-HD MA 5.1 presentation. Voices are wonderfully deep and warm, with very little variation between animated and human characters. One noticeable aspect of the dialog is directionality; voices come from all directions, occasionally emanating from the left and right channels (matching on-screen character location) which stretches the sound stage while adding a hint of realism. The front and rear channels literally teem with sound including loads of ambient effects like babbling brooks, bird chirps, and the sparkling sounds of magic. Directionality of action oriented sounds (such as a car whizzing by) are dynamic and extremely accurate. Heitor Pereira’s (Despicable Me, The Smurfs) original score is given the royal treatment as it frolics around the room dancing through all the channels, matching the liveliness of the Smurfs’ on-the-screen spirit. Low Frequency Effects are also present, including one LFE-fest paired with a giant Ferris wheel that nearly cracked the foundation of my theater; they are also used to bolster the visible power of Gargamel’s magic.
It’s obvious that much thought and effort went into the audio’s production and the results are absolutely topnotch.
• The Smurfs: The Legend of Smurfy Hollow
• Daddy's Little Girl: The Journey of Smurfette
• The Naughties! The Tale of Hackus and Vexy
• Animating Azrael
• Evolution of the Naughties
The Smurfs 2 hardly represents cross-generational entertainment. This is a film that is squarely aimed at children and only children, and it succeeds. Director Raja Gosnell should be commended for keeping focused on his target audience without attempting to inject adult worthy subject matter. Some parents will likely be able to find some enjoyment in the film, but most will merely be treading water until the closing credits. And while the audio and video presentations are nearly flawless, it’s safe to assume that those aspects will likely go unappreciated as the movie is shown in minivans across the country during the coming busy travel season. Never fear, though, children will be more focused on the story and less concerned about presentation values. I can easily recommend The Smurfs 2 as a holiday gift for children falling in the elementary school to early tween age range. The film is perfect for them and will bring quite a few smiles.
Starring: Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria, Katy Perry
Directed by: Raja Gosnell
Written by: J. David Stem, David N. Weiss, Jay Scherick, David Ronn, Karey Kirkpatrick
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Studio: Sony Pictures
Runtime: 105 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: December 3, 2013
Buy The Smurfs 2 on Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Solid watch for kids (making it a great gift), Pass for Adults