I guess you can’t really find too much fault with a movie that is based on the premise of being kind and loving — of helping people no matter who they are, believing in those who don’t believe in themselves, and all that Rainbow Brite, Joan Baez do-goodery. Yes, we have to appreciate the merit in The Smurfs 2‘s humanistic — or should we say blue-manistic (ow, my soul) — ideologies, even when its story is steeped in annoying characters, redundant gags, and the cheesy squeals of Smurfette (Katy Perry) and Vexy (Christina Ricci), a female Naughty — that’s like a Smurf… only evil, synthetic, and gray — as they form a sisterly bond while in the captivity of the nefarious Gargamel, played with comedic dignity by Hank Azaria. But although The Smurfs 2 touts good will and merriment, it doesn’t make these things seem all that interesting.
Fundamentally, you won’t have too great a time with The Smurfs 2, nor will your children; with moreover boring characters leading the journey to save Smurfette (the serious Papa Smurf, grimacing Grouchy Smurf, wide-eyed Clumsy Smurf, and self-obsessed Vanity Smurf… even Neil Patrick Harris isn’t really given much to do), there isn’t even an ostensible fan favorite of the bunch. Who will the young viewers be quoting and emulating on their way out of the theater? Most likely: Gargamel. Azaria’s villain is easily the most entertaining component of the movie, with the Simpsons vet committing full force to the goofy, moreover likable loser wizard who craves Smurf essence to fuel his magic wands. He and his Naughties, especially the brain-dead Hackus (J.B. Smoove, though you wouldn’t recognize the voice), are the film’s real stars. The most delightful bouts of screen time come when Gargamel is contemplating his intricate plans or bickering with his feline wife. He’s the comedic hero, when he’s supposed to be the villain.
As such, the uninteresting “goodness” of the Smurf spirit is overshadowed by Gargamel’s far more appealing hijinks, thus rendering the movie’s most redeeming quality — it’s heart — to be quite a forgettable element. Still, Gargamel is played the clown, never the dark knight. He’s not cool or enviable whatsoever, but an oafish fool whose comeuppance is just as enjoyable as his victories. The kids will never root for Gargamel, they’ll just like to watch him. Watch him succeed (as he does in the early acts of the movie), watch him fail (as, of course, he eventually will). As long as he’s on camera, hamming it up. Parents won’t mind Azaria’s bulk of the screen time, either. Gargamel is not exactly stocked with the wit of some recent animated greats, but the character is more than watchable.
The rest of the film, however, treads lazily at sea level. It’s never offensive — unless you take issue with the psuedo-swears of a duck voiced by Brendan Gleeson — never excruciating, never particularly gripping or funny. Essentially, the best way to describe The Smurfs 2 is harmless. Boneless. A perfectly appropriate testament to the diminutive blue creatures themselves, who preach of smiling brotherhood and accomplish very little in the vein of anything beyond mushroom architecture and the perpetration of apple-based measurement. An hour and 40 minutes that can be rolled into the six-note ditty sung by every Smurf in his woodland village: simply, The Smurfs 2 is a happy song. But there are worse things in the world.