You know that moment in Beckett's Endgame when Hamm turns to the audience and says "Not a subplot, I trust"? Watching The Smurfs 2, we know just how he feels.
When the evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria, having a ball) attempts world domination utilising the magic essence squeezed from arch patriarch Papa Smurf in the last film, the sudden outbreak of continuity is enough to undo whatever scraps of sanity might remain with the viewer. Consistency? Between Smurfs movies? What gives?
Two unlovely pictures into this Eurotrashtastic franchise and we’re off to Paris (a more natural stomping ground for blue folk, one feels), where Gargamel hopes to extract even more Smurf magic in order to animate an army of “naughties” – fake Smurfs made in the same way he once forged a vehement anti-feminist Smurfette – in order to extract even more Smurf magic in order to affect a global takeover. Got that?
In the blue corner we find returning funnyman Neil Patrick Harris, who, in addition to defending the Smurfs from the incoming Smurfocalypse, must also overcome Oepidal friction with his well-meaning, gregarious stepfather, a chap played by Brendan Gleeson, and, later, a duck played by Brendan Gleeson.
Having smurfed out all possible variations of the word smurf during our last review of The Smurfs – inexplicably the ninth biggest film of 2011 – we're pretty smurfed for new things to say. Once again, director Raja Gosell brings all the wit we've come to expect from the director of those relative masterpieces Big Momma's House and Beverly Hills Chihuahua. The cast works hard to bring meaning and emotional clout where there is only a thin premise to shake blue booty and fall over a lot.
An entire symposium of ethicists and atom interferometry specialists would struggle to differentiate between the chaos caused by the naughties and regular Smurf collateral damage. Incessant "hip" references to Facebook and the internet make one think that the producers aren't after parents or grandparents out with tots at the cinema: they're actually courting tots and their reanimated ancient ancestry.
Will it suffice for the folks who spent more than $500 million on the last film? Almost certainly. Get ready for Smurfs 3, people.