I've had to see my fair-share of kids films this year with my mom, sister and her three kids, all under 7 years of age.
You see if all three of us go, then we can go man-to-man defense on the kids and have a more productive time out. I took the oldest one with me (so I didn't look weird by myself sitting in a children's movie) and as we left she said one important thing to me, the words that stick out to me as I write this: this was better than Turbo.
That may seem minor but my niece anxiously awaited Turbo; she saw the previews earlier this year and was sure that it was to be the pièce de résistance of her movie-going career this summer. However, without provocation, as we left hand-in hand from the theater into the parking garage, she exclaimed how much better this film was and as I reflected on that statement and got what came to be my second Oprah ah-hah moment in life, I came to the swift realization that: it soooo was.
To start off with, the showing we caught of The Smurfs 2 was in 3D. I often privately lament the overuse of 3D at the cinema since it normally adds zilch to the film but it was warranted and used in a way that it added something to the Smurfs 2. Starting from the narrator's opening story utilizing a 3D friendly, pop-up fairytale book, the effects had an enriching effect on the tale-telling and the storyline. That was phenomenal but the film didn't make waves with me based on the proper use of 3D technology alone. What really bedazzled me was sitting through what felt like an homage to the cartoons of the past with its silver-tongued, slick humor.
The Smurfs 2 is witty. I mean, so sharp that I'm not a 100% certain all the adults in the theater got the jokes. But it wasn't PG-13 raunchy or borderline inappropriate jokes like the ones found in Rango, they were clean but cheeky enough so parents could have a hearty chuckle as the jokes flew over the kids heads. There were laugh-out-loud jokes in this film for adults as well as the kids. I've seen a lot of family-friendly films stumble trying to manufacture comedic gold that suits all parts of the audience but this is a trick that Smurfs 2 manages to complete so effortlessly I imagine even X-game star Shaun White, who voices Clueless Smurf, had to be proud of.
The plot was familiarly Smurfy with Neil Patrick Harris reprising his decidedly daddy-character Patrick, the patriarch and strong ally to the bubbly, blue protagonists. The animated leads falls to Smurfette (Katy Perry) and her new-found family, Vexy (Christina Ricci). Smurfette is the adopted and only female counterpart to the Smurf world, originally created by the evil but awkwardly, funny antagonist Gargamel (Hank Azaria). Gargamel, who has made it big with his own magic act in the real-world, along with his eerily-human sidekick and pet cat, Azrael devise a plan to capture Smurfette and get from her what will eventually lead him to what every evil villain wants: world domination.
There's a strong case presented in the film for family, no matter the origin, and a person not allowing a poor start in life to dictate the future. Pretty deep stuff for a kiddie-focused flick but never overwrought or overcomplicated; it was pretty plain and easy to digest for everyone. That was what I appreciated about it.
As far as kids films this years, this one outshines them all in terms of polish, pace and being complete. I could almost go sit alone, sans kid, in a theater filled with children and overworked parents to see this quasi-animated gem. Almost. Whether you decide to go it alone or bring a pint-sized guest, my guess is the whole family will like this one.