The Smurfs 2 (PG)
Grouchy Smurf may change his tune and transform himself into “Positive Smurf” in The Smurfs 2, but Raja Gosnell’s insufferably frantic and goofy sequel isn’t apt to motivate similar conversions from those who detested his original 2011 live-action/CG hybrid. Gosnell’s follow-up is something of a nature-vs.-nurture tale focused on the predicament of Smurfette (Katy Perry), who finds herself torn between returning to live with evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria), who originally created her as a faux-Smurf spy, or staying with her blue compatriots led by Papa Smurf (Jonathan Winters), whose magic potion turned her into a real Smurf. After Smurfette is kidnapped to Paris by Gargamel and his D.I.Y. wannabe-Smurf creatures, the Smurfs embark on a rescue mission with the help of human pal Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris), who’s also dealing with daddy dilemmas regarding corndog-loving stepfather Victor (Brendan Gleeson). Rife with issues of parentage and self-definition, the film—however sloppily scripted—may compassionately speak to the confusing conditions of kids of adoption and remarriage (as well as the challenges of transgender youth). Yet its tolerant messages remain buried beneath lame pop-culture references, hectic slapstick, fart jokes and endless Smurf puns that—Azaria’s funny, over-the-top cartoon villainy aside—make one pine for the Smurfpocalypse.