"The Smurfs 2" is the youngest skewing movie of the summer -- more so than "Turbo" or "Monsters University" -- but with a message children and adults can embrace.
As wise Papa Smurf counsels in the comedy opening today: "It doesn't matter where you came from. What matters is who you choose to be."
That's a lesson Smurfette (voice of Katy Perry) and Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris), now a dad but still smarting from the long-ago departure of his father and arrival of his stepfather, must learn in this sequel to the 2011 blockbuster blend of live action and animation.
2.5 stars = Average
Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria and voices of Jonathan Winters, Katy Perry, Christina Ricci.
PG for some rude humor and action.
Evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria) is back and playing to sold-out houses who love his sorcery act. He engineers the kidnapping of Smurfette as part of a plot to win world domination.
He sends one of his Smurf-like creations -- he calls them "the Naughties," and they live up to the label -- to grab Smurfette, who mistakenly thinks her adopted family and friends have forgotten her birthday when they're actually planning a surprise party.
She is transported to Paris, where Gargamel uses threats and tricks to try to get Smurfette to give him a secret formula that could lead to Smurf-a-geddon.
Papa Smurf launches a rescue mission with the accidental team of Clumsy, Grouchy and Vanity while Patrick and his wife, now parents to a boy named Blue, book passage to Paris, too.
Along for the ride is Patrick's big-hearted stepdad, Victor (Brendan Gleeson), who is turned into a duck by Gargamel and whose goose could be cooked by a chef with duck a l'orange on the menu.
His fate, along with those of the Smurfs and the Naughties, is on the line in this sequel packed with celebrity voices including Christina Ricci as Vexy and J.B. Smoove as her misbehaving, annoying brother, Hackus. Virtually every Smurf has famous pipes, from Jimmy Kimmel speaking for Passive-Aggressive Smurf (try explaining that on the ride home) to snowboarder Shaun White as Clueless Smurf.
Anton Yelchin returns as the voice of Clumsy, George Lopez as Grouchy, and John Oliver as Vanity Smurf while "The Smurfs 2" represents the final feature role of Jonathan Winters, who died in April at age 87. He is thanked in the credits for "giving life to Papa Smurf and for making the world a Smurfier place."
"The Smurfs 2" gives both Smurfette and Patrick crises to work through, within the confines of a PG movie with blue cartoony creatures.
The Smurfs took Manhattan in the first movie, but this time, they pop up all over Paris, which lends a note of sophistication amid the jokes about blue butts or a cat smarter than Gargamel.
Still, "Smurfs" is strictly a (young) family affair and one that doesn't need the pricier 3-D. Unless you, too, want to make the world a Smurfier place.