Published: 00:00, 31 July 2013
| Updated: 10:55, 31 July 2013
The irrepressibly upbeat blue creatures, invented by Belgian artist Peyo, return to the big screen in a saccharine sequel designed to keep the merchandising tills ringing for another couple of years.
The middle chapter of an intended trilogy, The Smurfs 2 is a sweet and inoffensive tale of good versus pantomime villainy, which enforces the wholesome message that there's no place like Smurf.
An astonishing five screenwriters were enlisted to cobble together the flimsy script, punctuated by groansome puns ("Get a shroom!") and repeated trills of the Smurf's theme tune.
"La la la-la la la, sing a happy song" trills Smurfette (voiced by Katy Perry), whose inglorious past as a creation of the evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria) provides Raja Gosnell's film with its starting point.
Having recounted Smurfette's transformation from meddlesome minx into a blonde-haired vision of loveliness courtesy of Narrator Smurf (Tom Kane), the sequel finds the heroine feeling blue because all of her friends have forgotten her birthday.
In fact, Smurf Village is planning a surprise party.
At her lowest ebb, Smurfette meets Vexy (Christina Ricci), a naughty imp created by Gargamel, who is now a successful magician performing at the famed Opera House in Paris.
As commanded by her creator, Vexy transports Smurfette to the French capital, where the snaggle-toothed villain intends to extract enough Smurf essence from Smurfette to keep alive his flourishing showbusiness career.
Once Papa Smurf (Jonathan Winters) learns of the abduction, he fashions crystals to travel to New York City where old friend Patrick Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris) and his wife Grace (Jayma Mays) can spearhead the rescue.
Unfortunately, Clumsy (Anton Yelchin), Grouchy (George Lopez) and Vanity (John Oliver) mistakenly swallow the crystals intended for Brainy, Gutsy and Hefty so Papa Smurf must avert total Smurf-a-geddon with a trio of unlikely sidekicks.
In Paris, Smurfette meets Vexy's dim-witted brother Hackus (JB Smoove) and begins to wonder if she truly belongs at Smurf Village. Meanwhile, Patrick faces an important lesson in parenting from his genial stepfather Victor (Brendan Gleeson) and cherubic son Blue (Jacob Tremblay).
The Smurfs 2 uses computer animation to bring the titular do-gooders to life and as with the first film, Papa Smurf and co look cartoonish and out of place with the live-action settings. Gargamel's feline sidekick Azrael is particularly unconvincing.
While Harris earnestly delivers the pivotal expository dialogue about unconditional love, Azaria camps it up a treat as the megalomaniacal magician, whose loopy scheme can only end in tears.
The majority of the humour is aimed at young audiences and occasional concessions to parents, like when the rescue party sees Smurfette playing happily with Vexy and Hackus and one of the diminutive heroes quips, "She's just identifying with her captors. It's classic Smurfholm Syndrome", are fleeting.