'The Smurfs 2' a fantasy film for Smurfphiles

Film: "The Smurfs 2"; Cast: Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria, Jayma Mays and Brendan Gleeson; Voices of: Jonathan Winters, Katy Perry, Christina Ricci, Anton Yelchin, George Lopez, John Oliver and J.B. Smoove; Director: Raja Gosnell; *1/2

This season seems to be dedicated for kids. After "Turbo" and "Zambezia", director Raja Gosnell's "The Smurfs 2" is another rollicking roller-coaster hybrid-live action-cum-animated film.

Based on the characters and works of Belgian comic artist Peyo, "The Smurfs 2" is a sequel to the 2011 film, "The Smurfs". For the uninitiated, the Smurfs are blue, three apple-high friendly individuals who live in mushroom houses in Smurf Village, a fantasy land.

In this franchise, Gargamel the wizard is flourishing in Paris. But he is running out of his magical powers. So he creates a group of mischievous Smurf-replicas called the Naughties; Smurfette (voiceover by Katy Perry), Vexy (voiceover by Christina Ricci) and Hackus (voiceover by J.B. Smoove) to obtain the all-powerful, magical Smurf-essence. Apparently, this concoction would help Gargamel to rule the world.

Unfortunately for him, things don't work according to his plans. Smurfette, the cute blonde naughty, who he had sent to snoop and rob the Smurfs of their "Smurf-essence", is a changed individual as she "chooses to be a Smurf".

So, he with the help of Vexy and Hackus kidnaps Smurfette from Smurf-land and imprisons her in Paris.

Laced with familial bonding, an adventurous flight around Paris and emotional blackmail what follows is the Smurfette-rescue operation. Papa Smurf (voiceover by Jonathan Winters) along with Smurfanity, Grouchy and Narcissi-murf (voiceover by George Lopez, Anton Yelchin and John Oliver respectively) traverse to Paris and in collaboration with their human friends - Patrick (Harris), Grace (Mays) Winslow and Victor (Brendon Gleeson), they rescue Smurfette.

The plot is layered with lessons like dealing with different types of parents - real parents, adoptive parents to stand-in parents. It is strongly underlined with the moral, "It does not matter from where you come, what matters is what you choose to be."

It takes patience to go through the first half hour of the film as the narration screeches of show and tell technique and smurfological dialogues; that is, diction morphed with smurf references. Once you get used to this, you begin to appreciate the film.

The dialogues are preachy and the humour is derived from the repetitive actions or verbal jokes. But the best and crassy lines are mouthed by Patrick's ever-embarrassing step-father Victor.

Penned by a group of writers, the film's plot points don't have a definite graph. It balances on an even keel. The action is too predictable and ineffective in 3D.

Hank Azaria as Gargamel along with his Cat excels in his cartoonish avatar of the evil wizard. Brendon Gleeson as Victor sparkles with all the absurdity in the film. It is actually funny to watch him transform into a mallard and then return to his normal self, suddenly mid-air.

The voice of Jonathan Winters as Papa Smurf is endearing. Katy Perry and the rest of the cast beautifully and effectively synchronize their voices with the characters.

Visually, the two locales - Smurf Village and Paris are distinct and beautifully captured. But it's Paris with top-angle shots and aerial shots that transform this pixie tale to a fantasy film.

Director Raja Gosnell and his accomplished team have seamlessly merged the camerawork with the computer generated images. But the blatant plugging of the Sony tablet in this Sony production is pointless, when in reality the target audience for this film is viewers less than ten years of age.

The film will only appeal to Smurfphiles and those who understand Smurfology!

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