Released in the late summer of 2011, Raja Gosnell’s The Smurfs made an astonishing (and not to be snivelled at) $560 million at the worldwide box office, despite a lukewarm critical response. So, in that respect, The Smurfs 2 (2013) seemed inevitable. And, without doubt, a mere two years later and Belgian comics artist Peyo’s little blue fictional creations are back for another cinematic adventure that rehashes the formula that proved so fruitful the first time around. Now a successful magician, the wicked wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria) sets his sights on taking over the world, and has created the ‘Naughties’ to help him.
Trouble is, in order for his plan to be successful, he needs more blue essence. So, he sends Vexy (Christina Ricci), one of the Naughties, to kidnap Smurfette (Katy Perry) and bring her to Paris. Realising what danger Smurfette is in, Papa Smurf (Jonathan Winters, in his final role) hatches a plan to travel back to the real world and save her before it’s too late. As you may expect, there’s little to The Smurfs 2 in terms of narrative that really allows it to stand out from the spate of animated films released each and every summer.
The script – which is credited to no fewer than five screenwriters in total – primarily concerns Papa Smurf’s madcap efforts to rescue Smurfette with the help of fellow Smurfs Clumsy (Anton Yelchin), Grouchy (George Lopez) and Vanity (John Oliver). It’s fairly run-of-the-mill in kid’s film standards, and the screenwriters’ lack of willingness to include anything even remotely edgy makes it difficult for adults to engage with it like, for example, they would with a Pixar film. Yet there’s something to be said about a film that’s as inoffensive, to-the-point and squarely aimed at those of an easily pleased disposition as The Smurfs 2 is that raises it somewhat from being the complete waste of time it probably should be.
The film also benefits from being competently pieced together by the returning Gosnell. His experience in live-action/CGI hybrids makes the blending of the real and the computer generated seem almost seamless. He’s more than ably assisted by cinematographer Phil Meheux, who captures the Parisian landscape in all its beauty (a sky-high race sequence, in particular, is worth mention). It’s perhaps only the irritating pop soundtrack that lets the technical side of the film down.
It’d be easy to call The Smurfs 2 a waste of time and talent. But then, when it’s as perfectly serviceable, harmless and achieving of exactly what it set out to achieve as it is (entertain kids and provide them with a message about the importance of any type of family), then that’s exactly what it’s not. It could have done with a bit more finesse, and it probably doesn’t reflect any one of it’s skilled cast and crews best work, but certainly not the worst thing to lose 105 minutes of your time to.