Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
This weekend, many parents are going to see "The Smurfs 2" under duress. They don't want to disappoint their children, who are dying to see the film, and won't stop talking about it until they do. As lousy as it is, I won't discourage any parent from going to see "The Smurfs 2." After all, the film's big take-away message is at least partially noble: "love is [not] conditional." Any parent that goes to see "The Smurfs 2" is essentially teaching their children that lesson by example. Adults suffer so that their know-nothing spawn can enjoy all-too-brief happiness: Parenthood 101, right?
Still, you should know that "The Smurfs 2" is a charmless endurance test. It wears you down with tossed-off Smurf-related puns like, "I almost smurfed myself," and "Sometimes, you gotta smurf with the changes." Naturally charming performers like Neil Patrick Harris, Brendan Gleeson, and Hank Azaria are consistently wasted on a script that's like Mad Libs as filled in by a monomaniacal, but schematically programmed spambot ("Well, that was ducked up," one character groans after being transformed into, well, a duck). "The Smurfs 2" is generally moronic and unmoving when it most needs to be cute and disarming. Reluctant parents: you don't need to tell your kids that you won't love them if they like "The Smurfs 2." Instead, you can silently judge them until either you and/or they simply can't bear the thought of talking to each other.
Until then, allow me to lay out how despairingly bland "The Smurfs 2" is, in case you need evidence for future family therapy sessions. The film begins with an explanation of Smurfette's (Katy Perry) origins. Created by the evil wizard Gargamel (Azaria), Smurfette was an ersatz Smurf, a grey-skinned Naughty designed to wreak havoc amongst the Smurfs. But then Papa Smurf (the late, and sorely-missed Jonathan Winters) helped Smurfette see the best qualities in her and become a "true blue Smurf."
Now, Smurfette is unsure of herself: she has recurring nightmares that suggest she is more Naughty than Smurf, and does not in fact belong in a village of 99 other Smurfs (all male, by the way). Gargamel, now a popular stage magician, tries to capitalize on Smurfette's insecurity and kidnaps her in the hopes that he can make his own Smurfs, siphon off their "Smurf essence," and control the world. Meanwhile, while Patrick (Harris) tries to help reunite the Smurfs, he also has to deal with his own identity crisis: stepfather Victor (Gleeson) wants to be part of Patrick's family, but Patrick doesn't relish his unsolicited affection.