After a worldwide box office take of more than $563 million in 2011, it shouldn't come as a big surprise that the tiny blue Smurfs are back for more moviegoer green with "The Smurfs 2." They'll get it, too, if you consider the big kid appeal and built-in fan base of Belgian artist Peyo's creations; but for the rest of us, the second Smurfs outing is just another movie that makes you groan and roll your eyes.
Trading in its New York City location for Paris, "The Smurfs 2" once again features the Smurfs' human allies Patrick and Grace Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays), and their nemesis, Gargamel the Evil Wizard (Hank Azaria). Joining the human cast for the sequel is the always-wonderful Brendan Gleeson (Mad-Eye Moody from "Harry Potter"), who plays Patrick's estranged stepfather; Victor; and Jacob Tremblay as the Winslow's now-toddler son, Blue.
"The Smurfs 2" finds Gargamel on top of the world as "Gargamel the Great," the first magician to play the famed Paris Opera House. But as much as Gargamel has going for him, we wants more. Smurfnapping his original creation, Smurfette (voice of Katy Perry) from Smurf Village, Gargamel schemes to use his new creations, the Naughties (voices of Christina Ricci and J.B. Smoove), to coax out of Smurfette the formula that gives the Smurfs their essence. His plan, of course, surrounds world domination.
See my review of the film on "KARE 11 News at 11" with Pat Evans below.
"The Smurfs 2" operates strictly with little kids in mind, employing slapstick and forced humor every opportunity it gets. The dialogue also frequently hits the wall and does little to move the predictable plot along.
While the first two acts of "The Smurfs 2" suffer from the blues, quite literally, the plot takes a welcome turn in the third act: Patrick and Victor come to an understanding about their father and step-son relationship, in scenes juxtaposed with Grandpa Smurf (a warm turn by the late, great Jonathan Winters in his final voice role) explaining the village's love for Smurfette, who feels like an outcast.
The true stars of "The Smurfs 2" are the visual artists, who seamlessly blend its live action and computer-generated characters in its stunning Paris setting. Raja Gosnell returns as director from the original film, and having previously directed the live-action/human hybrid "Scooby Doo," there's no denying he has a great handle on this brand of filmmaking.
Now if Gosnell and his writers only study an inspired sequel, say like "Despicable Me 2" and its wonderfully hilarious, tiny yellow henchmen the Minions, then they may have a chance to redeem themselves for the inevitable "Smurfs 3."
After all, when you mix blue and yellow, you get green -- and by employing something "Despicable" imagination into the next film, the Smurfs will get a chance to rightfully earn it.
"The Smurfs 2," rated PG, 2 stars out of four.
See the trailer for "The Smurfs 2" below.
What other local critics are saying ...
Chris Hewitt writes in his 2 1/2 star review for the Pioneer Press that the film is "sursmurfingly not bad," calling it "classier and more clever than either the cartoon it's based on or the movie that preceded it."
Kristin Tillotson of the Star Tribune gives the film 3 stars, writing that the film works for its intended kid audience, while "adults can also mark time trying to guess who’s voicing all the bit-player Smurfs."
Bring Me The News film critic Tim Lammers is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and annually votes on the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Locally, he also reviews films on “KARE 11 News at 11.” As a feature writer, Tim has interviewed well over 1,000 major actors and filmmakers throughout his career and his work is syndicated nationwide.