Taking place two years after the events of The Smurfs, The Smurfs 2 follows Gargamel (Hank Azaria in a delightfully over-the-top performance) in desperate need of Smurf “essence” in order to continue his successful magical act at a popular venue in Paris. Gargamel is flanked by his usual sidekicks: Azrael the cat, who appears to be inspired by a mishmash of Internet memes, and two Naughties, i.e., the results of his failed attempt to create a Smurf from scratch. There’s Vexy (voiced by Christina Ricci), a raven-haired, punk-rock answer to Smurfette, and the obedient, yet none-too-bright Hackus (J.B. Smoove). The Naughties are both pale skinned, enraging Gargamel, who sends Vexy to find Smurfette (Katy Perry) and bring him the formula he needs to extract large quantities of blue Smurf essence.
Wisely, The Smurfs 2 draws on the canon of the original 1980s animated TV series, wherein Smurfette was introduced to the Smurf Village as an agent created by Gargamel. Under the false assumption that the Smurfs have forgotten about her birthday, Vexy is easily able to convince Smurfette that she belongs with her “real” father, and transports her to Gargamel through a magical portal. Once again, Papa Smurf and a motley crew of helpers create their own portal to find and rescue Smurfette, and yet again they land in the home of their human buddies Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and Grace Winslow (Jayma Mayes). The Winslow family now includes their son, Blue (Jacob Tremblay), and Patrick’s kindhearted, yet estranged stepfather Victor (Brendan Gleeson). The Smurfs 2 benefits from the presence of a child actor, who, unlike adults, does not require a lengthy period of denial before accepting the impossible.
The second film also holds several other advantages over its predecessor. While there is no shortage of humor based on the Smurfs’ lack of knowledge concerning the inventions and landmarks of man, the environment is now less alien to the Smurfs, and thus more bearable for a viewer with a lower tolerance for slapstick sight gags. More importantly, gone is the glitz and glamour of the New York business scene. In its place, the Parisian landscape provides a better backdrop for the primary characters to discover healthier perspectives regarding matters of the heart. Smurfette comes to realize that a biological father with questionable morals does not mean she herself is incapable of possessing a moral code and the capacity to love. Similarly, Patrick is able to let go of the resentment he has for Victor and see him as a loving father figure and very real member of the family.
There are, of course, pitfalls. The values of love, friendship, and family, while all good things, are delivered with the subtlety of an exploding anvil factory. Suspense, emotional resonance, and nuance are nowhere to be found. The word “smurf” is used as a noun, verb, adjective, and everything in between. Harris, at times, looks like he would rather be anywhere else, and his delivery does little to diminish the impression. However, The Smurfs 2 is, if nothing else, a gentle, kind, and humorous film. It’s not a masterpiece, but it isn’t supposed to be. It is, however, a perfectly pleasant film for young children. A smurfing success, if you will. leave a comment --Tracie Cooper