Like the earlier film in 2011, The Smurfs 2 is a harmless but far-from-delightful kiddies picture that appears to have a cash register where its heart ought to be. It’s formulaic and cutesy but never treads new ground, sticking closely to the template of the previous film that grossed $564 million dollars. The plot, once again, involves the little blue fellas venturing out into the “real world” to save their species from their lifelong nemesis, the evil wizard Gargamel.
 
Hank Azaria, easily the best thing in the movie, returns to play the deliciously over-the-top cackling Gargamel, who dispatches his minions, Vexy and Hackus, to Smurf Village to kidnap Smurfette (voiced by Katy Perry) so he can extract her essence and rule the world. The adventure unfolds in Paris, where Gargamel is presenting his magic show at the Opera House, so Papa Smurf, accompanied by three other Smurfs, enlists the help of their human pal Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris), and together they head out to the French capital to rescue Smurfette.
 
 
Amidst all the slapstick gags and exhausting puns, the film also finds the time to deliver sermons on family, identity and parenting. Smurfette must decide if her adopted father Papa Smurf means more to her than Gargamel, who originally created her, while Patrick works through similar issues with his own step-dad Victor (Brendan Gleeson). It’s all resolved quite easily, but not before director Raja Gosnell can throw in at least a few set pieces for young ones to chuckle at. These include a disruption at a candy store, the take-over of a giant ferris wheel, and one nicely done airborne sequence through Paris, the only portion that justifies the gratuitous 3D.
 
Neil Patrick Harris, virtually sleepwalking through the film, is a disappointment, and there’s not much the newcomers bring to the table either, including self-obsessed Smurf, Vanity.
 
I’m going with two-a-half out of five for The Smurfs 2. Best suited for the little ones; parents must just endure it for their sake.

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