(NEW YORK) -- The first The Smurfs movie isn't going to make anyone’s top 1,000 list of funniest films. Surely, they can do a better job with The Smurfs 2, right?
The best part of the first Smurfs movie was Hank Azaria’s live-action Gargamel. He continues to make The Smurfs 2 better -- in fact, he's even better. He owns this particular role and may have carved a nice niche for himself as long as the Smurfs franchise continues to do well at the box office.
In a bit of clever writing, Gargamel’s evil wizardly antics from the first movie were caught on somebody’s smartphone and uploaded to YouTube. It turned him into a worldwide sensation and now he’s a famous magician with a popular live act in Paris. But he's still the same old Gargamel, fixated on harnessing Smurf essence so he can become the most powerful wizard in the world.
Gargamel's new plan? He’s created Smurf-like creatures called Naughties. Once he turns them into full-on Smurfs, he’ll have as much Smurf essence as he needs to execute his dastardly plot. But to do it, he must first kidnap Smurfette and force her to reveal the secret formula Papa Smurf used to turn her into a Smurf.
Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays are back as Smurf friends Patrick and Grace but this time there are a few new additions: their young son, Blue, and Patrick’s stepfather Victor, played by Brendan Gleeson. Once again, Katy Perry lends her voice to Smurfette but the standout here is The Daily Show’s John Oliver as Vanity Smurf, who delivers every narcissistic joke with the perfect combination of irony and believability. It's also worth noting that Papa Smurf is again voiced by the late Jonathan Winters in his final film role.
What The Smurfs 2 lacks in overall intelligence, it makes up for with entertaining performances and better jokes -- much better jokes -- than its predecessor. And it has a nice message for kids.
Three out of five stars.
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