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‘Smurfs 2’ won’t be at the top of anyone’s list

By Christopher K. Conner

The sequel to 2011’s “The Smurfs,” “Smurfs 2” picks up a few years after the end of the first film. Gargamel (Hank Azaria) has become a popular stage magician, audiences not realizing that his tricks are not illusions, but magic from Gargamel’s Smurf essence powered dragon wand. As his supplies of Smurf essence are running low, Gargamel tries to create his own infinite supply by creating his own Smurfs.

Two of his failed experiments, Vexy (voiced by Christina Ricci) and Hackus (J. B. Smooth) are close approximations of Smurfs, but they require feedings of essence to keep them alive, rather than providing a source. Gargamel decides to retrieve his earlier experiment, Smurfette (Katy Perry), from the smurf village. Since Papa Smurf (Jonathan Winters) had successfully completed Smurfette’s transformation into a Smurf, she knows the formula Papa used. With the formula, Gargamel hopes to finish the process of creating his own supply of Smurfs.

Gargamel uses the Eiffel Tower as an antenna to focus enough energy to open a portal to Smurfette, but he uses an inadequate amount of Smurf essence, leaving the portal too small for him to go through. Seeing this as an opportunity to win favor with her “father”, Vexy offers to go and retrieve Smurfette. Vexy tells Smurfette she escaped Gargamel to get her close and then throws her through the portal back to Paris.

Papa Smurf plans to take Brainy, Gutsy and Hefty Smurf on a rescue mission, but Clumsy Smurf (Anton Yelchin) knocks into the transport crystals and instead Vanity (John Oliver), Grouchy (George Lopez) and Clumsy go instead, with Papa following behind. The four Smurfs are hurled into the middle of the Winslow apartment in New York. Once there, they enlist the aid of Patrick (Neal Patrick Harris), Grace (Jayma Mays), Victor (Brendan Gleeson) and Blue (Jacob Tremblay) to go to Paris and help them rescue Smurfette.

In Paris, Smurfette manages to escape Gargamel on her own and is pursued by Vexy and Hackus through the streets. The two “Naughties” hatch a plan to convince Smurfette to be naughty so that she will see she belongs with them.  Then she’ll give Gargamel the formula that will turn Vexy and Hackus into blue Smurfs. After destroying a candy shop to save Hackus, Smurfette accompanies Vexy and Hackus back to Gargamel’s lair.

At the same time Gargamel is convinced by his cat Azrael, to be nice to Smurfette long enough to get the formula. Azrael reminds Gargamel that it is Smurfette’s birthday, so Gargamel gets a gift and a cake to commemorate. Smurfette, thinking the Smurfs had forgotten her birthday, appreciates the gestures and is starting to think that she may belong with Gargamel after all.

It is left to the Smurfs and the Winslows to rescue Smurfette before she gives in to Gargamel and gives him the formula. With an unlimited supply of Smurf essence, Gargamel will be able to take over the world and destroy Smurf village.

The plot of “Smurfs 2” is just as simplistic as the 1980s cartoon series it is based on. It exploits the overused gag of surprise party planning leaving the birthday person feeling everyone has forgotten them in about the only place it still works: children’s movies. Still probably too obvious, but at least some kids will not have seen that before. Parents that have seen any situation comedy since Ozzie and Harriet will spot it immediately.

With the added complications of family issues brought in by Patrick Winslow, one might hope that there would be a little more depth to keep the adults in the audience engaged, but unfortunately that is not the case. While there were a few points in the film that tried to involve parents, they were too few and too shallow to provide anything more than a brief hope that the film would get better.

Of course, my kids had a fine time. They laughed out-loud a couple of times and I could see in their eyes that they were feeling enough tension to keep them watching. Even they didn’t place this film very high on their list in comparison to fully animated features we have seen together lately.

Even considering that this film is primarily for a young audience, the story seem hacked together in places. At an hour and forty-five minutes, there was a little more time to work with than the director realized. The plot took a few shortcuts here and there and spend too much time in places that didn’t add to the story. There could have been a more cohesive story this film if it were cut fifteen minutes shorter, or a more expressive one had there been fifteen minutes more.

In the world of hit or miss family entertainment, what “Smurfs 2” brings to the screen is a miss. It is certainly at the bottom of the kids’ features list for the year. It turned out to be little more than checking off just one more film that the kids will probably not remember by next summer.

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