Smurfs2coverGrade:  C+
Entire family:  No
2013, 105 min., Color
Rated PG for some rude humor and action
Sony Pictures Animation
Aspect ratio:  1.85:1
Featured audio:  DTS-HD MA 5.1
Includes:  Blu-ray, DVD, UV Digital HD copy
Bonus features:  C-
Trailer

I don’t know how much Hank Azaria is getting paid to play Gargamel in the live-action/animated Smurf movies, but it’s not enough.

If it wasn’t for Azaria’s scrumptious,villainous dramatic monologues directed at his cat accomplice, Azrael, The Smurfs 2 would be one big animated yawn. The scenes that feature Azaria and his cat salvage this 2013 sequel—for older audiences, that is. Younger ones will probably be blissfully captivated by the blue Smurfs too, and all things Smurfy.

It’s ‘tweens, teens, and adults who will find the plot and the animation sequences pitched way too low to be of much interest, and the other on-camera stars—Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) and Jayma Mayes (Glee)—seem so caught up in the dumbing-down that their performances don’t have the same wink-wink quality of Azaria’s. So yeah, this guy and his CGI-enhanced cat save the day . . . sort of.

They can’t rescue the plot, which is straight out of the repetitive old Saturday morning cartoons about little blue creatures who live an idyllic existence except for an evil wizard who wants to eliminate them. And they aren’t enough to compensate for humor that sometimes stoops, or rather crouches, to potty-level (“Every time a smurf toots, someone smiles”?). 

Smurfs2screenThat’s good for younger kids, who giggle at the mere mention of the euphemism “toot” and love familiar structures as much as they do hot cocoa after a romp in the snow. To them it will make perfect sense that Smurfette, who was created by Gargamel and rescued by Papa Smurf and turned into a real Smurf, would have nightmares that she turned back to the “Gargamel” side. And it makes sense that Gargamel has created two new “naughty” Smurfs named Vexy and Hackus and has a grand evil plan to use the Eiffel Tower as a power source to open a portal that will allow him to enter Smurf village and kidnap his “daughter”—which, of course, sets up a rescue attempt by Papa Smurf, Clumsy, Grouchy, and Vanity.

The pacing is fine but the dialogue is trite. Older children and adults will also find the main plot and Smurf gibberish tedious, redeemed only by Azaria’s performance and a sideplot involving Gargamel being discovered and becoming a world-renowned magician-conjurer. That twist provides some hilarious sequences and helps us survive the build-up to a “Smurfalator” climax with special effects that are actually so well done it will snap adults momentarily to attention again.

Though the blend of live action and animation is seamless and the colors and visuals a feast for the eyes, The Smurfs 2 isn’t so much a family film as it is a diversion for the elementary and preschool set.

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