Reel Reviews

‘The Smurfs 2’

Audience:
A-I – general patronage

 

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These blue hues make you laugh

If summer’s speedy passing has you feeling blue, then head to “The Smurfs 2” (Columbia) for a jolly pick-me-up. The lighthearted tone of this 3-D sequel – which like its 2011 predecessor, mixes animation with live action – comes courtesy of the familiar azure-hued elves of the title.

Young children will be enchanted and laugh themselves silly, while their parents will appreciate the script’s positive messages about friendship and family – potty jokes notwithstanding.

Raja Gosnell returns to direct the proceedings, which once again showcase the widely beloved comic-book characters created by Belgian cartoonist Peyo (Pierre Culliford, 1928-1992). Besides the earlier film, Peyo’s diminutive figures – said to be only three apples tall – also populated a 1980s Hanna-Barbera televised cartoon series.

Picking up from the events of the first big-screen outing, evil human wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria) remains obsessed with the squishy, sky-colored creatures. He wants the formula for “Smurf-essence,” which promises eternal beauty and unlimited power. Gargamel fashions his own elves to infiltrate Smurf Village. The first mole he created, the blond-tressed Smurfette (voice of Katy Perry), failed him. She was turned – as they say in the world of espionage – and is now one of the family.

So Gargamel tries again with two new beings whom he dubs the Naughties: Vexy (voice of Christina Ricci) and Hackus (voice of J.B. Smoove). Vexy kidnaps Smurfette and returns her to Gargamel, who has set up shop in Paris as a celebrity sorcerer, playing the city’s famed Opera House nightly. Papa Smurf (voice of Jonathan Winters, in his last film role) must rally the troops to rescue Smurfette before she is forced to reveal the formula – an eventuality which would, we are told, unleash “total Smurf-ageddon.” Joining him are Clumsy (voice of Anton Yelchin), Grouchy (voice of George Lopez) and Vanity (voice of John Oliver). Much like Snow White’s dwarves, a Smurf's name is a good indication of his character and temperament.
There’s human assistance, too, in the form of still-loyal friends: couple Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and Grace (Jayma Mays) now have a son named, naturally, Blue (Jacob Tremblay). Victor (Brendan Gleeson), Patrick’s estranged stepfather and owner of a chain of corn dog restaurants (don’t ask), tags along for the ride.

As the search for Smurfette barrels along, the City of Light has never looked lovelier – or bluer. Amid the slapstick action sequences, there’s a lot of talk about family, especially parentage. Does Smurfette owe allegiance to her real “father,” Gargamel, or to Papa Smurf, who welcomed her to Smurfdom?

“It doesn't matter where you come from,” Papa Smurf instructs. “What matters is who you choose to be.” There's more, as “The Smurfs 2” concludes with a surprisingly pro-life message: “Life is the most precious thing,” Papa Smurf intones. “We must protect it.”

May young and old alike absorb that bit of Smurf-essence.

The film contains moderately intense action sequences, some slapstick violence and mild scatological humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I – general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

By Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service

‘Turbo’

Audience:
A-I – general patronage

 

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A speedy snail tale

Aesop’s fable of the tortoise and the hare gets a Formula One makeover in “Turbo” (DreamWorks), a rollicking 3-D animated comedy about a garden snail whose wish for super-speed is unexpectedly granted.

Directed and co-written by newcomer David Soren, “Turbo” is a warmhearted family adventure that champions the underdog in the spirit of Rocky Balboa. In the tomato patch of a suburban Los Angeles home lives a colony of snails, whose daily regimen is to harvest the ripest of fruit for consumption, while avoiding predators like birds, lawnmowers and obnoxious kids. It’s a mundane existence from which Theo (voice of Ryan Reynolds) longs to escape.

Theo’s passion is speed, and he commandeers the homeowner’s VCR at night to watch Grand Prix racing, especially the exploits of champion driver Guy Gagne (voice of Bill Hader). He takes to heart Guy’s mantra, “No dream's too big and no dreamer’s too small,” much to the chagrin of Theo’s more practical-minded brother snail, Chet (voice of Paul Giamatti).

Watching the cars zooming along the freeway one evening, Theo is sucked into the engine of a souped-up drag racer. Doused with chemicals, he undergoes a physical transformation a la Spider-Man. Suddenly, he’s capable of speeds exceeding 200 mph – and adopts a new moniker, Turbo. His superpowers are put to good use when he chases a crow that has snatched Chet. He saves his brother, but they find themselves in a down-and-out strip mall anchored by the Dos Bros Tacos shack, run by brothers Angelo (voice of Luis Guzman) and Tito (voice of Michael Pena).

Sensible Angelo manages the failing business, while lazy Tito schemes for new customers. When the snails drop into his lap, he’s delighted, as he “races” snails in his spare time. But Turbo is no ordinary snail now, and his super-speed shocks Tito (“Santa Maria!” he exclaims, in the film’s sole reference to Christianity) and inspires him to dream big.

Against Angelo’s wishes, Tito rallies his fellow shop owners to join him on a cross-country odyssey to enter Turbo in the Indianapolis 500, where he will be pitted against his idol, Guy. Joining Turbo as his pit crew are a rout of eccentric but similar-minded snails with names like Whiplash (voice of Samuel L. Jackson), Burn (voice of Maya Rudolph), and Skid Mark (voice of Ben Schwartz).

What ensues is a tale of two brothers, human and escargot, and how chasing a seemingly impossible dream strengthens the bonds of love and trust. Chet, like Angelo, is a realist, concerned for his brother’s safety and mental health.

“What will happen if you wake up tomorrow and your powers are gone?” he asks. “Then I better make the most of today,” Turbo replies. Indeed he does, and this Little Mollusk That Could roars around the track to a thumping soundtrack which includes – naturally – Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” theme from “Rocky III.”

Cartoonish action sequences involving menacing birds and car crashes may frighten the smallest youngsters, but “Turbo” is silly and innocent fun for all ages.

The film contains a few perilous situations. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I – general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

By Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (June)

A
Across the Divide, A-II (no rating)
Admission, L (PG-13)
After Earth, A-III (PG-13)
Amour, L (PG-13)
The Awakening, A-III (R)
B
The Big Wedding, O (R)
Bullet to the Head, O (R)
Bully, A-III (PG-13)
C
The Call, O (R)
The Croods, A-I (PG)
D
Dead Man Down, O (R)
Dream House, L (PG-13)
E
Epic, A-I (PG)
Evil Dead, O (R)
F
Fast & Furious 6, L (PG-13)
42, A-III (PG-13)
G
G.I. Joe: Retaliation, A-III (PG-13)
A Good Day to Die Hard, L (R)
The Great Gatsby, A-III (PG-13)
H
The Hangover Part III, L (R)
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, O (R)
The Host, A-III (PG-13)
I
Identity Thief, L (R)
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, L (PG-13)
Iron Man 3, A-III (PG-13)
J
Jack the Giant Slayer, A-II (PG-13)
K
Killer Elite, A-III (R)
L
The Last Exorcism Part II, L (PG-13)
M
Movie 43, O (R)
Mud, A-III (PG-13)
O
Oblivion, A-III (PG-13)
Olympus Has Fallen, L (R)
The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure, A-I (G)
Oz the Great and Powerful, A-II (PG)
P
Pain and Gain, O (R)
Peeples, O (PG-13)
Phantom, A-III (R)
The Place Beyond the Pines, L (R)
Q
Quartet, A-III (PG-13)
R
The Reluctant Fundamentalist, A-III (R)
Restless Heart, A-II (no rating)
S
Scary Movie 5, O (PG-13)
Skyfall, A-III (PG-13)
Something Borrowed, L (PG-13)
Star Trek Into Darkness, A-III (PG-13)
T
21 and Over, O (R)
Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, A-III (PG-13)
W
Warm Bodies, A-III (PG-13)