Monday, August 5, 2013
The Cinema File #231: "The Smurfs 2" Review
Yeah, yeah, I know, it's freaking Smurfs 2, what do you think I might have to say about it? I get that this is in no way a movie designed to appeal to me, so really any opinion I might have is kind of pointless, but I watched it, I can't unwatch it, so I might as well talk about it. Screw it, let's do this thing.
Full disclosure, I didn't see the first Smurfs movie, because at the time I wasn't reviewing movies online on a regular basis, so I had no real reason to. Unfortunately, this time I do, and since I previously made a pledge to see every animated movie this year and this one technically counts, here I am, reviewing the stupid Smurfs movie. And it is stupid, not that I should have to tell you that. I'm not just talking stupid in the way kids movies were always supposed to be before Pixar showed us all a better way, but really, obviously, a greater than average level of stupid. I don't want to believe that there are kids in this world so devoid of taste that even at their young impressionable age they can find this tripe entertaining, but I know there are many, which is no doubt why Smurfs begat Smurfs 2 in the first place.
Smurfs 2 is about a bunch of Smurfs doing Smurfy shit, and that's about it really. Broodmare Smurf gets kidnapped by Avril Lavigne Smurf and taken to a horrifyingly insensitive Jewish stereotype so he can get a formula to turn the evil grey Smurfs blue, to then suck out their blue Smurfiness and gain enough magical power to take over the world. Did I mention, Smurf? Okay, sure, whatever. I just liked a movie about a guy who shoots metal claws out of his hands and fights giant cyborg samurai warriors, so I guess it would be hypocritical of me to challenge this movie on the logic or metaphysics of squeezing Smurf-juice into magic wands. Though I still don't get why Gargamel talks to his cat the way he does, repeating everything the cat says as if there's an audience in the room with him who clearly doesn't speak cat, unless he's some sort of Deadpool-esque fourth wall aware character and doesn't allude to this in any other way.
Okay, that's silly nitpicking, but what else am I gonna do here? It's the Smurfs for fuck's sake. I can't even really hate the movie too much, because its just so bland and useless that I can't even muster the appropriate level of bile to be mad at the thing. The closest I can come is watching the eminently talented Hank Azaria debase himself for an hour and a half, almost certainly knowing how much better he is than these movies, but like David Cross in The Chipmunks trilogy, forced to accept that his mainstream appeal is nowhere near close to what it should be based solely on merit. But than that doesn't explain why Neil Patrick Harris is still doing these movies. Am I wrong to think that guy could pretty much write his own ticket in Hollywood at this point? Does he just love money too much, or does he actually find this shit worthwhile in some way?
Yes, its an easy target, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be mentioned just how lazy and pointless this franchise is, and always has been. Even recognizing the futility of demanding character complexity in a movie about blue elves and talking cats, I just can't sit by and let a movie try to get away with picking a personality trait at random, giving it to a character, putting it explicitly in their name, and then just calling it a day. And I know that's part of the mythology of this whole universe, but that doesn't make it interesting or not asinine. And even for a kids movie, there's so much more they could do to make this at least marginally entertaining. Just having the Smurfs and taking them at face value seems like a waste. Why not juxtapose their infallible innocence with the cynical human world for comic effect, as in the Brady Bunch movie from the 90's. It would be subversive while still being family friendly, the same tack taken by the Fat Albert movie, which still sucked, but didn't suck nearly as much as it could have with the added level of self-awareness.
This movie just seems like a nostalgia trip for something that even in the annuls of stupid crap from the 80's people have nostalgia for is particularly embarrassing. You're talking to a guy who still gets a twinge of ten-year-old nerd glee out of The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers every once in a while, and even I'm looking down on the people who are into this shit. If you have little kids who you think might enjoy it, my advice to you is to re-evaluate how you're raising your children, and try to gear them to actually liking better things. It's not that hard. You're the arbiter of what they ultimately have access to. They can't buy a ticket to this unless you buy it for them, and just because they think they want it because a commercial in between some equally shitty cartoon you let them watch told them to want it, doesn't mean you have to placate them. Go see the super fast Snail movie if you have to. Just don't Smurf this thing. For the love of Smurf.