I wouldn't necessarily say I'm looking forward to The Smurfs 2. Chances are, I probably won't even ever see it. But if I do for some reason see it, I won't be surprised if I don't hate it. The first Smurfs took me by surprise. Not only is it not terrible, but it's actually kind of enjoyable. Maybe extremely low expectations were to blame for my reception. I really anticipated a lot of fart jokes and other immature humor; something that wouldn't just appeal only to kids but something that would be offensive even to their level of intelligence, plus the usual dated pop-culture references and music licensing. But it's cute in a tolerable way and smartly self-aware.
As for my expectations that the sequel will be on the same level, well, the soundtrack does have Right Said Fred doing a Smurfy version of "I'm Too Sexy," and that's a pretty sorry indication things have gone downhill.
These days kids' movies, animated or half-animated or not at all animated, are a crapshoot for adults (and, in all due respect, for kids). Not even every Pixar feature is dependable anymore, and for the most part titles labeled "family films" are anything but substantially fulfilling for all in the family. So, when there's something that adults can at least watch without being miserable (and no, I'm not talking about the adults who like My Little Pony), it can almost knock us out of the movie theater's seat.
Last year, I included Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs in a discussion post on the broader question of what (any) movie you were surprised to enjoy. Talk about a shocker. Based on my favorite classic children's book from my youth and completely unrecognizable in design and story, the animated feature looked absolutely dreadful to me. And it turned out to be a brilliant cartoon comedy with plenty to tickle the funny bones of all ages -- although it might actually be funnier to older viewers. I am definitely looking forward to that sequel.
I also was surprised at just how much I enjoyed How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda, Kung Fu Panda 2, Rango and Bolt.
But animated films tend to get more of a pass with critics and grown-up moviegoers, especially if they're not presumed "childhood rapings" like a Smurfs movie, which likely would have a low Rotten Tomatoes score without all the nonanimated stuff simply because of the source material. Outside of some masterfully directed features like Hugo and Where the Wild Things Are, there are mostly just mediocre adaptations of kids' books that might as well be made for Disney Channel or Nickelodeon.
I recall one exception that I enjoyed: Because of Winn Dixie. That was mostly thanks to Eva Marie Saint and a good-natured, small-town story that made me think it didn't veer too far away from the award-winning text. Other than that, though, we might have to go all the way back to Babe to find a really enjoyable live-action family film.
I'm really, really hoping that as my kid gets old enough to go to the movies that I'm pleasantly surprised by a lot more.
What animated and/or kids' movies were you really surprised to enjoy?
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