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Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Smurfs 2 Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
Just in time for the holidays, Sony Pictures Animation’s The Smurfs 2 reunites the world’s favorite three apple-high creatures, bringing loads of laughs for every member of the family. Earning more than $321 million in theaters worldwide to date, the film stars Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays and Hank Azaria and features the voice talents of Katy Perry as Smurfette, George Lopez (Rio) as Grouchy, Anton Yelchin (Star Trek Into Darkness) as Clumsy, and Alan Cumming (TV’s “The Good Wife”) as Gutsy. New additions to the franchise include Christina Ricci (Bel Ami) as Vexy, J.B. Smoove (Think Like a Man) as Hackus, John Oliver (TV’s “The Daily Show”) as Vanity and Brendan Gleeson (The Company You Keep) as Victor. The late Jonathan Winters reprises his role as the original Papa Smurf. Directed by Raja Gosnell (The Smurfs, Scooby Doo), the film also includes celebrity voice guests stars including Mario Lopez, Jimmy Kimmel, Fred Armisen, Shaun White, Shaquille O’Neal, and many others.

Film (3 out of 5 stars)

Smurfette (Katy Perry) is about to have another birthday, and each birthday comes with a terrible dream. In Smurfette’s dream she is not a happy blue smurf but one of Gargamel’s naughty gray creations sent to destroy smurfkind. Papa Smurf consistently reassures Smurfette that she is one of his children and she is right where she belongs. When Smurfette thinks that the group has forgotten her birthday she retreats and is kidnapped by one of Gargamel’s naughties named Vexy (Christina Ricci). Vexy drags Smurfette into the human world where Gargamel is almost out of smurf essence. Gargamel has been using the smurf essence previously collected and has become a magical wizard with a popular traveling show. Gargamel’s power and fame is solely due to the smurf essence which he can only get from blue smurfs. Gargamel plans to turn his gray naughties blue so that he can extract the essence from them, ensuring his endless power.

Papa Smurf and a few others have traveled to the human world to save Smurfette, who believes no one even cares to look for her. Papa Smurf intelligently selected the best Smurfs to travel with him but by chance ended up with Vanity (John Oliver), Clumsy (Anton Yelchin) and Grouchy (George Lopez) to assist him. Old Friends from the first movie Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and wife Grace (Jayma Mays) are thrilled to see their tiny friends. When they realize that Smurfette is in trouble they grab son Blue’s passport and head to Paris where Gargamel holds her captive. Patrick’s stepfather Victor (Brendan Gleeson) also signs on to save the day.

In all the good ways, The Smurfs 2 is very similar to the original film. It’s bright, it’s colorful and it’s fun. The Smurfs are sweet and adorable little digital creatures that blend seamlessly with the live action world. The Smurfs are realistic (for little blue people) with tiny bodies but big hearts. It’s not hard to see the Smurfs as people with feelings and unique personalities. Hank Azaria’s Gargamel is every bit the bumbling madman from the cartoons.  I don’t know if I overlooked it in the first film or if it was just overdone in the second but I did not enjoy Azreal the cat nearly as much. Azrael had too much personality and his meow talking was weird. I like to think of Azreal as an evil animal…but still an animal. In The Smurfs 2, Azreal is more than your typical house-cat and that was the part that broke the realism for me. No it was not the tin blue people or the toadstool homes in Smurf Village that did that.

Much of this film is devoted to Patrick and his under-appreciated step father. While tolerance and acceptance are good lessons to learn, I didn’t really want to be taught a lesson. I just want to see Smurfs get into and out of trouble while outsmarting Gargamel. That’s the Smurf formula and I would have preferred it if they had stuck to it.  There are two kinds of people who grew up in the Smurf era. There are the people who hear the word Smurf and immediately sing “la la la la la la…” in their head (or out loud). Then there are those who want to see Gargamel finally feed the Smurfs to that darn cat so that the madness can end. If you are the latter – everything about this film is bound to make you want to kill yourself or someone else. You either love or hate them – there is no in between. For those that hate the Smurfs…I say Smurf You!
Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)

The plot isn't perfect but the video presentation is darn close to smurfection (perfection). The little blue smurfs pop off the screen. Details are incredible when it comes to their varying skin tones and textures. The blue tint on the gray naughty Vexy’s hair specifically showed that even the subtlest color variations and changes were noticeable. Additionally the environment shines as the viewer is immersed in textures from dirt and grass to concrete that always appears true to life. Human skin tones are also impressive and natural while black levels are flawless. Sony regularly offers a stellar Blu- ray presentation and The Smurfs 2 in 1080p high definition is no exception.
Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)

The Smurfs 2 features a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that rivals the video presentation. There is significant body to the ambient noise of big city crowds, a theater full of applause or a busy restaurant kitchen. Dialogue is at an even level, consistent throughout the film and volume need not be adjusted for the bigger action sequences.
Extras (3 out of 5 stars)

The Smurfs 2 contains a brief list of special features with some Blu- ray exclusives.
  • The Legend of Smurfy Hollow – An animated Smurf mini movie, exclusive to the Blu- ray.
  • Smurf-O-Vision 2 App – Playable activities that can be synced with your Blu- ray.
  • Deleted Scenes – Five deleted scenes available on the DVD.
  • Daddy’s Little Girl: The Journey of Smurfette –A look at the plot, Smurf legend and Katy Perry as Smurfette.
  • The Naughties! The Tale of Hackus and Vexy – The two gray naughty characters are discussed in this nearly six minute featurette, exclusive to the Blu-- ray.
  • Evolution of the Naughties – Rich Hoover discusses the process of bringing the two new character into the Smurf world.
  • The Puurrfect Companion: Azreal’s Tail – A look at the feline character and the live action/digital combinations used to create Azreal.
  • Animating Azrael – A look at the process of digitally creating Gargamel’s sidekick on this DVD feature.
Summary (4 out of 5 stars)

The Smurfs 2 is cute, sweet and colorful. It’s sure to keep the kiddos occupied and will likely drive Smurf haters mad. The film overreached while creating Smurf and human drama but it was enjoyable none the less. The special feature mini movie’s standard animation is a sharp contrast to the near perfect digital feature film. I’m glad they went CGI with this one. Sony has impressed, once again, with the audio and video presentation and the Blu- ray offers a DVD and Digital HD Ultraviolet copy as well. For those with children, and adults who fondly remember Smurf Village from their own childhood, I recommend adding this and the original film to your Blu- ray collection.

Order your copy today!

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