I was the wrong age to appreciate The Smurfs in their heyday — too old to be entertained, too young to appreciate them ironically — but the one thing I did know was this: A lot of little blue men living together with a single female whom none of them ever touch? Seemed kinda gay.
Well, it seems even more gay since they started making movies about them — with Neil Patrick Harris nonetheless! And his wife is played by Glee‘s Jayma Mays!
The Smurfs 2, a followup to the surprise hit of two years ago, does aim for a weird gay appeal, Broadway song-and-dance-man Harris notwithstanding. The antics can border on camp, with a sense of humor (the parts aimed at the adults, at least) skewed toward the flirtatious and sardonic (especially when John Oliver, as the Smurf known as Vanity, primps in from of him mirror). And the puzzling way in which the word “smurf” can be used as almost all parts of speech — noun, verb (“Smurfing fantastic!”), exclamation (“Smurf that!”), adjective (“She’s very smurfy”) — often recalls Jimmy Kimmel’s “unnecessary censorship” bit, making the imagined replacement word far worse than whatever the creatures could actually say in a PG film.
In fact, I’m not quite sure who the target audience is for Smurfs 2. The young kids in the preview screening I attended seemed delighted as long as goofy blue dwarves were flitting across the screen; when the smurfs slowed down to have sentimental conversations with live-action adults, they became as restless as boy wearing a hoodie in George Zimmerman’s neighborhood. But the wittier jokes — like Passive Aggressive Smurf, or the birthday party scene with snooty helicopter parents — are sandwiched between tons of nonsense. The 3D effect also adds nothing to the film, which is already loud, frantic and garish.
And yet, The Smurfs 2 isn’t bad, even when it isn’t good. It boasts Jonathan Winters’ avuncular voice as Papa Smurf (his final acting before he died), and Brendan Gleeson heartily hamming it up as Harris’ stepdad. It breezes along, wit Katy Perry singing the closing number (she’s Smurfette). And same-sex couples with kids could do a lot worse than having a gay role model who appears in family entertainment. The plot makes no sense, but did you expect it to? It’s the Smurfs, for crissakes. Count yourself lucky if the kiddos don’t beg for the DVD set of ’80s cartoons. Sitting through those? Now that would be a steaming pile of smurf.
Now playing in wide release.