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The Smurfs 2 ***

Is it worth $15 (3D)? Yes

Here’s how to gauge if you’ll like “The Smurfs 2”: The opening moments include references to “Smurf-ology” and “Franken-Smurf,” and later there’s discussion of the social media website “Smurf-book” and the music festival “Smurf-apalooza.” If you think that’s cheesy and dumb, stay home. If you think that’s cute, you’re sure to leave with a big Smurf-eating grin on your face. 

The cotton candy-sweet sequel is obviously for kids but also appeals to adults, which is one of its many pleasant surprises. The story: Evil sorcerer Gargamel (Hank Azaria) can create “Naughties,” which are pseudo-Smurfs that have a white-ish color. The two Naughties he has now, Vexy and Hackus (voices of Christina Ricci and J.B. Smoove, respectively), are a handful. Years ago Gargamel created Smurfette (voice of Katy Perry) as a Naughty, but Papa Smurf (voice of the late great Jonathan Winters) concocted a secret formula to turn her into a true blue-blooded Smurf. Needing the Smurfs’ “essence” to continue his world famous illusionist act at the Paris Opera House, Gargamel kidnaps Smurfette and tries to force her to reveal the formula so he can make all the Smurfs he wants and have endless essence.

Of course, the Smurfs will not give up Smurfette without a fight. Papa Smurf, Clumsy (voice of Anton Yelchin), Vanity (voice of John Oliver) and Grouchy (voice of George Lopez) go to New York City to ask Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris), Grace (Jayma Mays) and Patrick’s stepfather Victor (Brendan Gleeson) for help in rescuing Smurfette. Soon enough they’re all in Paris, wreaking havoc with the Smurfs inexplicably never being seen by anyone outside the principal cast.

Unfathomable as it may seem given the kid-friendly content, “The Smurfs 2” also has some clever material for adults: Grace gets to do an Audrey Hepburn impersonation, and the Parisian landmarks will be a treat for anyone who’s been there, particularly the opera house, from the depths of which Gargamel tries to turn his lost love/creation Smurfette into the daughter he wants her to be. You don’t expect “Phantom of the Opera” elements in “The Smurfs 2,” but there you have it.

What’s more, silly puns and Smurf-isms often tweak the funny bone. After Victor is turned into a duck, Vanity quips, “Victor, you look fowl.” Later, Smurfette’s sympathy with her captors is described as “Smurf-holm Syndrome.” They’re bad jokes, sure, but they’re also good for a smile, even if the kids don’t get it.

More impressively, director Raja Gosnell’s story has substantial thematic layers that elevate the rest of the material. The dysfunctional relationship between Patrick and Victor nicely complements the issues Papa Smurf faces while helping Smurfette, and the message of loyalty to those who raised you (rather than who birthed you) is a valuable lesson for youngsters to learn.

As opposed to the hand-drawn animation of the ‘80s TV “Smurfs” cartoon, the bright and clear 3D picture here provides a seamless blend of live action and CGI. Given the box office success of the first film and what’s expected for “The Smurfs 2,” these little blue cutie-pies are apparently here to stay.

Did you know?
This was comedy legend Jonathan Winters’ final performance before he died in April 2013.