By Mark Saldana 

Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)

A mere ten hours after sitting through the first Smurfs movie, I couldn’t help, but enter this Sunday morning screening grouchily.  The first movie is one of those films geared purely for young children. Chock full of silly slapstick and a cliché  Smurf out of water story, The Smurfs does not have much to offer children over the age of nine or the poor adults who have to sit through this terrible cartoon with their little ones. I could probably state some of the same criticisms about this sequel, but the movie actually has more going for it. With a story full of heart and more effective humor, The Smurfs 2 probably won’t end up in any grown-up’s collection, but at least it is much more tolerable. Parents will probably ignore the juvenile antics as it does offer some valuable lessons for their children which the first one definitely lacks.

Since the events of the first film, Gargamel (Hank Azaria) and his cat Azrael (Frank Welker) have remained in the “human” realm touring the world with their successful magic show. In another plot to harness the power of the Smurfs, Gargamel, with the help of the Smurf-like “Naughties” (Christina Ricci, J.B. Smoothe), kidnaps Smurfette (Katy Perry).  Papa Smurf (Jonathan Winters), Grouchy (George Lopez), Clumsy (Anton Yelchin), and Vanity (John Oliver) return to the human realm and contact their friends Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris), Grace (Jayma Mays), and Blue (Jacob Tremblay) so that they can rescue Smurfette and stop Gargamel’s evil plot to take over the world.

There’s not really a whole lot more to say about this film that I haven’t already mentioned. Director Raja Gosnell returns, as do all of the same writers of the first film. To the film’s credit and the credit of the filmmakers involved, the humor this time around actually works in a few more moments and the story has a lovely message. Other than these merits, the plot is typical and cliché. The humor that doesn’t work will probably annoy the grownups while their little children will eat it up. The kids who attended the early screening seemed to enjoy the silly slapstick and gags in the film. Unlike the Disney/Pixar films which usually appeal to audiences of all ages, Smurfs 2 is clearly made only for children.

The cast members all perform earnestly and the voice talents sound great as their respective characters. I would have preferred to see Neil Patrick Harris and Hank Azaria in some less cringeworthy scenarios with better writing, but perhaps that’s asking for too much. Brendan Gleeson joins the cast this time as Victor Doyle, Patrick’s well-meaning step-father. Here is another talent who has his share of some painful lines and moments, but he still delivers strongly like the trooper he is.

Even though the movie has some improved humor, the film still has its share of bad puns and ridiculous one-liners. Smurf fans will probably enjoy the different uses of the word Smurf, in all of its forms, and will whistle along with the theme. Non-fans or people who simply outgrew these jolly blue characters will probably feel some annoyance. As a kid, I grew up watching the Smurfs cartoon, but these characters made their appearances on television at a time that I was outgrowing the more juvenile cartoons. Normally, I am a kid at heart, but these cutesy miniature characters have a way of getting under my skin in an aggravating way. Jeez! I’m beginning to sound like Grouchy Smurf now.  Parents with little children will be able to tolerate it, but I’d still recommend dodging it if possible.

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