The Smurfs were never my cup of tea. I never bought the toys as a kid, never watched the Saturday morning television show, never saw any of the other films. But, through the osmosis of pop culture, I have absorbed different elements of the little blue gnomes and the tormentor wizard Gargamel. The Smurfs 2 is the sequel to the very popular 2011 flick.
The film starts out with a pop-up book and Narrator Smurf (Tom Kane) telling the tale of the first film and how Smurfette (Katy Perry) came to being. All of the Smurfs live in their little land but things are not perfect. Smurfette believes that the other Smurfs have forgotten her birthday when they are actually planning a surprise party.
On the other side of the plot, Gargamel (Hank Azaria) has become a famous magician. Using Smurf essence, he makes audience members spin and transform. Night after night, his performances at the Paris Opera House are sold out.
But, Gargamel has yet another nefarious plan to get Smurf essence and take over the world. The plan includes two new characters called The Naughties. They are Vexy and Hackus.
Gargamel sends Vexy (voiced by Christina Ricci) to the Smurf village and pushes the blonde/blue skinned girl into a portal and into Paris. Gargamel wants the formula for making Smurf essence and Smurfette knows that formula.
The Smurfs decide to rescue Smurfette. Papa Smurf (the late Jonathan Winters) and three others are part of the journey. They go to NYC to recruit Patrick Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris) and Grace (Jayma Mays). The couple has a four year-old son. Along with Grandpa Victor (Brendan Gleeson) all travel to Paris to rescue Smurfette.
The story of The Smurfs 2 is two pronged. One is the rescue mission by the Winslow clan and the Smurfs in a Breakfast at Tiffany’s homage, and the other is the wearing down of Smurfette by cruelty and kindness. Vexy keeps pushing Smurfette the idea that they are sisters and Gargamel is their father. It is easy to see where all this is going to end up.
It may be hard to believe but Hank Azaria is just brilliant in the role of Gargamel. He snarls and spits with the best of cartoon villains in a live-action setting. Knowing the way these films are made, Azaria is basically playing over half of his performance to imaginary beings to be CGI animated later. In this cartoon world, he becomes the most animated character. Azaria dons the old-style slapstick of decades ago and brings it into the 21st Century.
Neil Patrick Harris knows that this role is not Shakespeare yet seems to be having a ball with the silly little flick. He has this slight smug look that tells the audience he is not shooting for an Oscar but just out to have a crazed good time. His work with both Brendan Gleeson and Jayma Mays is both comic and at times touching.
The animators behind The Smurfs 2 combine live-action elements and the CGI world seamlessly throughout the film. These types of films have grown by leaps and bound over the years and this effort is a bit of cutting edge technology. It is amazing to watch how realistic these films have evolved. Every year it just gets better and better.
The Smurfs 2 is a decent kid’s film that should please the intended audience. It stands alone as its own adventure but it is truly made for the fans and not so much for the general audience.