Children are sure to delight in the exploits of the eponymous little blue critters in The Smurfs 2. Those of us above the age of seven, though, are left to contend with the pleasure vacuum that occurs whenever these charisma-free creations pop on screen, which is most of the film’s 105 minutes.
Bumbling around Paris to rescue Smurfette (voiced by Katy Perry) from evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria, in the flesh), the bluies humorlessly substitute “Smurf” for seemingly any word at will and make for a constant headache. When Raja Gosnell’s film diverges from this insanity and focuses on its human cast, however, the results are far better. Azaria’s performance is so over-the-top and his comments so self-deprecating that at Gargamel’s cackling best he feels like an intentional commentary on villains at large. Also helpful is the presence of Neil Patrick Harris and Brendan Gleeson, assets that amazingly continue once the latter is turned into a talking duck for the better part of 20 minutes.
Things become downright promising when the five screenwriters squeeze in fun allusions to The Empire Strikes Back and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, plus lampoon overprotective parenting for some solid adult humor. They then unite the generations through effective messages about family that are actually earned, including somewhat on the Smurf side. Hopeful as these spots may be, they’re still no match for the general nothingness of the Smurfs themselves, and since the CGI protagonists are the film’s central draw, the product is only as good as their lack of screen time. Though their ubiquity is clear going in, the extent of their ho-hum nature is not, and as such is likely to leave all but the youngest viewers looking for the nearest exit.
Rated PG for some rude humor and action.
The Smurfs 2 is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.