Film Review: ‘The Smurfs 2′
The global family auds who powered 2011’s “The Smurfs” to a smurftastic $580 million gross will find much to enjoy in “The Smurfs 2,” a sequel that changes scarcely a drop of Smurf-essence in its winning formula. Tax-incentive Paris is substituted for New York this time, and a few new characters have been added to the mix, but the genially goofy shenanigans, incredibly corny punchlines and Hank Azaria’s go-for-broke performance as the incompetent wizard Gargamel are very much the same ― an entirely welcome thing in a summer movie season full of so much apocalyptic Sturm und Drang. Coming on the heels of DreamWorks Animation’s nonstarter “Turbo,” the pic should prove a formidable challenger to “Monsters University” and “Despicable Me 2” for the summer’s family box-office pennant.
Much like its predecessor, this new “Smurfs” plays like a lower-brow version of Disney’s 2007 hit “Enchanted,” with beloved storybook characters freely interacting with humans on the streets of a major city (where, in contrast to their counterparts in most pics of this type, they take few pains to disguise themselves). And while neither “Smurfs” outing matches “Enchanted” or the similar-themed “Night at the Museum” movies in terms of subversive wit and imaginative storytelling, they’re nevertheless pleasing, fairly mindless entertainments, made with a lot of affection for the original “Smurfs” comics of Belgian illustrator Peyo, and just enough sly, self-referential snark to keep parents from feeling like they’re on babysitting duty.
Set three years after the events of the first pic, “Smurfs 2” again opens in Smurf Village, where the looming birthday of Smurfette (Katy Perry) provides the occasion for Narrator Smurf (Tom Kane) to recount the story of how the lone female smurf came to be, starting life as the golem-like creation of Gargamel, only to to be rescued and turned into a real Smurf by the ever-benevolent Papa (again warmly voiced by Jonathan Winters, in his final film role). That sets the stage for a movie very much about Smurfette’s identity crisis ― call it a smurferiority complex ― including her mistaken belief that everyone in the village has forgotten her birthday (when in fact they’re planning a surprise party).
Meanwhile, Gargamel, last seen left behind in New York, has improbably become a world-renowned stage magician, enthralling packed houses nightly with his Smurf-essence-powered illusions. He’s also made two more ill-fated attempts to create his own Smurfs from scratch, resulting in the pale-skinned “naughties” Vexy (Christina Ricci), who’s like a punk Smurfette, and Hackus (JB Smoove), who seems to have a cavernous chasm where his brain should be. Running low on magic supplies, Gargamel is desperate to get his hands on the formula that turned Smurfette blue, which he will then apply to his naughties before bleeding them dry in his suped-up Smurf-a-lator. So he opens another interdimensional portal and sends Vexy to Smurf Village, where she kidnaps Smurfette and brings her to the City of Lights, where Gargamel is preparing to open an engagement … at the Paris Opera!
Of course, where one Smurf goes, more are sure to follow, and soon Papa, Clumsy (Anton Yelchin), Grouchy (George Lopez) and Vanity (John Oliver) are on the case, with a pit stop in New York to pick up human buddies Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and Grace (Jayma Mays), now joined by their son Blue (Jacob Tremblay) and Patrick’s gregarious, estranged stepfather, Victor (Brendan Gleeson). Nowhere to be seen this time around: Patrick’s ball-busting cosmetics company boss (Sofia Vergara), who seems to have rewarded him with the kind of flexible hours that allow one to make unscheduled European vacations.