There comes a point where a father becomes out of step with his children. For the most part, when it comes to entertainment, my kids (both under the age of seven) and I have been on the same page.
They’ve brought SpongeBob and Phineas and Ferb into my life with agreeable results and I have indirectly pushed Looney Tunes and The Simpsons into their welcoming arms.
We all like the Pixar movies and we all agree that Barney is painfully lame. I generally have a pretty open mind to anything they enjoy, but then that all came to an end when my kids fell in love with the steaming-pile-of-a-movie “The Smurfs.”
As a cartoon from my childhood, I didn’t really have any strong feelings either way about “The Smurfs.” But then they got re-purposed into a live-action/computer-animated schlock-fest in 2011 and I began to harbor some serious dislike for those little, blue mushroom-dwellers.
My kids went gaga for it and it seemed to always be on whenever they wanted to watch television (I secretly suspect my wife kept tabs on the broadcasting schedule and turned on the TV whenever it happened to be on just to make me crazy).
Good parenting dictates that I not be overly critical of my children’s tastes, but this was the one case where I was tempted to yell “That’s it! You’re sitting through a 14-hour Kurosawa marathon and then you’re getting nothing but broccoli for dinner while we’re at it!”
But time passed and “The Smurfs” became only an occasional torment; that was until they made “The Smurfs 2.” Only a massive jerk would deprive his kids of a second helping of something they deeply enjoyed (but don’t think I didn’t seriously consider it) so off we went to see it.
Maybe I have just been worn down by so many viewings of the first film, but I was surprised how much “The Smurfs 2” left me feeling, well, nothing, good or bad. It just existed as a giant, bland blob of inoffensive corporate efficiency.
It boasted a nice little moral about how love is what makes a family mixed in with some bad puns and time-killing “action,” but not much else.
The only real positive I can take away from this movie is that a lot of people I like got paid because of it. Topping that list is Neil Patrick Harris, who got a paycheck in the thankless task of non-animated lead, and, by God, he earned it.
Also in the un-animated deserved-wage-earning category is Brendan Gleeson, who plays NPH’s step-dad, and Hank Azaria, who — in spite of chewing all the available scenery as the villain Gargamel — didn’t squander any of the goodwill he’s built up voicing roughly two-thirds of the cast of “The Simpsons.”
On the animated side, “The Smurfs 2” is notable because it marks the final performance of comedy legend Jonathan Winters as Papa Smurf. While this is not as sadly disproportionate a career topper as Orson Welles in “The Transformers: The Movie,” it’s close.
I also generally approve of the work of Anton Yelchin and John Oliver, who made a little bank as Clumsy and Vanity Smurfs, respectively.
Then there is the eclectic collection of interesting, likable people who were brought in to essentially read only one or two lines of Smurf dialogue like Fred Armisen, Jeff Foxworthy, Alan Cumming, Paul Ruebens, Shaquille O’Neal, Jimmy Kimmel, and Shaun White. I’m pretty sure this reads exactly like the List of Famous People Director Raja Gosnell Wanted To Meet.
Anyway, in what should be a surprise to no one, “The Smurfs 2” is not a good movie, and the only (I emphasize only) reason you should ever even consider paying to see it is out of the love of the precious human lives you helped create.
“The Smurfs 2” is rated PG for some rude humor and action.