They say puns are the lowest form of humor.
By JON NICCUM
Special to The Star
Not sure if that applies to “The Smurfs 2,” which inserts the word “Smurf” into any random phrase that needs a punch line. You know, like, “It’s total Smurf-a-geddon.” Or more obscurely, “It’s classic Smurf-holm Syndrome.”
Are these actually puns or some other sort of comedy?
Many such questions might run through an adult viewer’s mind during this cash-grab sequel that’s better than it needs to be but still not very good.
On the other Smurf — er, hand — younger kids will likely enjoy the cutesy creatures and their not-too-scary adventures.
In the two years since the first movie (featuring characters based on a Belgian comic from the 1950s), the Smurfs have spent their idyllic lives adjusting to newcomer Smurfette (voiced by singer Katy Perry). Meanwhile, in the human world, wicked wizard Gargamel (a live-action Hank Azaria) attracts paying audiences to watch him perform real magic.
But his power is fading because he is running low on Smurf-essence. So he sends miniature minions Vexy (Christina Ricci) and Hackus (J.B. Smoove) into a dimensional portal to kidnap Smurfette, who holds the key to producing more essence.
In response, Papa Smurf (voiced by Jonathan Winters in his final role — and sounding almost identical to Hoyt Axton in “Gremlins”) leads a ragtag team to the rescue that includes Clumsy Smurf (Anton Yelchin), Grouchy Smurf (George Lopez) and Vanity Smurf (John Oliver).
It’s surprising that “The Smurfs 2” settles on this particular combination of blue-skinned, mushroom-dwelling heroes to comprise the rescue party. The voice cast in the sequel runs thick with talented names, from Kenan Thompson as Greedy Smurf to Jimmy Kimmel as Passive-Aggressive Smurf. So many more intriguing possibilities for passive-aggressive gags than simply having a cranky or narcissistic one.
But as they say in this sequel: “It’s Smurfy’s Law.”
The best part of this film is its setting. The first movie took place in the overused New York. At least this one is shot in Paris (with Montreal doubling for some parts), where Gargamel has taken up residence as Europe’s “most innovative conjurer.”
Returning director Raja Gosnell structures the tale around a central message of parenting. Both Smurfette and human pal Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) have deep issues with their stepparents, and both learn that being loved and taken care of is not exclusive to biological relations.
It’s less cheesy than one might think, thanks to Brendan Gleeson — an actor who can work wonders with any material — as Patrick’s coarse Irish stepdad.
“The Smurfs 2” is best encapsulated by Gargamel when he catches himself revealing how the process of extracting essence will affect a Smurf.
“It’s excruciating...ly painless,” he lies.
That accurately describes this sequel: excruciatingly painless.
3-D OR NOT 3-D
For a film requiring live actors and digitally rendered ones to share so many scenes, the 3-D adds welcome dimension. It’s best when showing off the Paris setting, as during action scenes that zoom through Notre Dame Cathedral.