The Smurfs 2 Raja Gosnell

The Smurfs 2 Raja Gosnell
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When the second instalment of the trashy and over-marketed Smurfs franchise opens, Narrator Smurf provides a breakdown of how Smurfette (Katy Perry) came to be the only female in Smurf Village. True to the original Belgian cartoon communism allegory, she's a creation of Gargamel (Hank Azaria), sent to sow havoc and discord amongst the little blue do-gooders, only to have their inherent kindness convert her from brunette to blonde, becoming the ultimate flirtatious vessel of comely female passivity.

While Gargamel lives the life of a magician celebrity in the real world — having been discovered on YouTube during the events of the first film — Smurfette mopes about, wondering about her roots after assuming her fellow villagers had forgotten her birthday. This leaves her as a prime target for Vexy (Christina Ricci), another of Gargamel's creations sent to kidnap a Smurf so her master (and father figure) can harvest enough blue power to take over the world.

Smurfette's disappearance and her resulting daddy issues (presented in a non-sexual, kid-friendly format) drive the thematic and narrative trajectory of this treatise on the beauty of unconventional families. Papa Smurf (Jonathan Winters) brings Grouchy (George Lopez), Clumsy (Anton Yelchin) and Vanity (John Oliver) with him to the real world on a rescue mission, only to find her vacillating between victimhood and contentment, having developed a bond with new sister Vexy and a sense of reluctant obedience to her creator.

Meanwhile, Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) mirrors this idea by similarly rejecting his stepfather, Victor (Brendan Gleeson), unconvinced that a man without blood relations could offer sincere, platonic, familial love. This inevitably takes a backseat to his decision to run off to France with wife Grace (Jayma Mays) and the four Smurfs, almost being eaten by a giant Azrael and looking after his stepfather once he's turned into a duck (and, yes, Grouchy makes a "fowl" pun). However, the cutesy, and strangely unconventional, message about embracing the love of those that accept you essentially drives this protracted commercial from beginning to end.

Unfortunately, in the midst of this audience-appropriate assertion are an abundance of jokes about Facebook, Internet buffering and recent pop culture signifiers that play like a potpourri of disjointed, haphazardly inserted buzzwords. In fact, much of the film's progression is so formulaic that it rarely makes a great deal of sense, despite ultimately being more cohesive in execution than the original. Chase scenes emerge solely to spruce up any post-expository sluggishness, rather than serving the needs of the rather standard and banal narrative.

What's particularly erroneous is the lack of reliance on the solid existing material. Throughout The Smurfs 2, the only fun moments of levity stem from the bickering and ideological differences between Vanity and grouchy. Vanity, amidst his homosexual affectations, has a positive, albeit narcissistic disposition, remarking about wardrobe and accessories, while Grouchy throws out insults and points out the stupidity of any given situation.

Their interplay, along with the embedded comedy that would come from the abundance of personalities through Smurf Village, could easily sustain a relatively makeshift narrative. But, just as with the first film, they've decided to limit Smurf interaction and focus on milquetoast human characters, leaving the village and its inhabitants off-screen for 90-percent of the movie. They don't even take advantage of Clumsy's titular character trait, leaving him trailing in the background of every scene, throwing out an occasional interjection or bit of dry information.

Why the presumably enormous corporate team behind this low quality blockbuster rubbish insists on reiterating such stale tactics when they have a decent framework to utilize is perplexing. But the handful of children that actually enjoyed the original, hypocritically consumerist film — purporting the ethos of Gargamel, rather than the Smurfs — should get their fill of thoughtless, uninspired, cold condescension. (Sony)