There has been a lot of talk in the food allergy community about the new The Smurfs 2 movie because of a certain scene involving peanut allergy. Allergic Living asked me to see the movie and review it, from the allergy perspective. Along for her point of view was my 12-year-old daughter, who has severe allergies to dairy, egg, peanut, all tree nuts and most legumes.
So off we went. While I was prepared to be outraged, I also wondered whether the movie would prove a sign that the entertainment industry was starting to pay lip service to food allergies. With statistics like 1 in 13 children having food allergies, would this turn out to be an example of tokenism?
Let’s cut to the big scene in question: the birthday party. In the scene, the Smurf’s human friends, Patrick and Grace Winslow, are hosting the party for their son and are reviewing their checklist of cautions. The food is gluten-free, vegan, no peanuts or strawberries, produced humanely and served on BPA-free dishes. So far, so good.
When the man’s stepfather, the owner of a corndog company, arrives with corndogs for partygoers, parents ask about peanuts. He assures everyone that his company does not put peanuts in the corndogs. The peanut-allergic child takes a bite before the man can finish his sentence – that they are, though, cooked in peanut oil. With lips swollen, the child is rushed off to the hospital. Later the audience learns that he’s OK. This is portrayed as a relief to the host because both of the child’s parents are lawyers, and that was mildly annoying.
I asked my daughter what she thought as someone with allergies. She felt that the birthday party scene was important as it helped to define the stepfather’s character – he’s an insensitive man who pushes his way into situations and manages to cause problems. Her one major issue was that no one administered epinephrine the allergic child. That would have been easy to include.
If this scene was the only reference to allergies, I might have felt that the writers had gone for a cheap laugh. But the concept of allergies runs through this film in a respectful way. In fact allergies play a pivotal role in a touching turning point that ties up several subplots.
So no, we didn’t have a big issue with the depiction of food allergies in The Smurfs 2. My daughter did not notice the fact that the stepfather didn’t take the reaction very seriously, and I simply found it realistic. Not all of our relatives ‘get it’ either and this reflected poorly on the older man. I’m pleased to report that I doubt many parents or kids living with food allergies would be offended by this movie.
As for the film as a whole, we thoroughly enjoyed it. There is plenty going on in the subplots to keep the adults’ attention. For the children, they will no doubt enjoy the juvenile humor with plenty of references to farts and name-calling. There isn’t any real violence but poor Gargamel is the butt of a lot of slapstick comedy. Hank Azaria and Neil Patrick Harris return to their roles and don’t disappoint. So yes, it was worth the price of admission.
Susan Clemens is the moderator of Allergic Living’s online Forum and Facebook page. Please let us know your own thoughts of how allergies were depicted in the movie – in the comments below or on our social media.