rating: 2.5Now that weve made it one step closer to completing The Smurfs trilogy, the apocalypse can officially commence. With that snarky barb out of the way, lets get down to the real question at hand. If you have to take kids dying to see this to the theater, will you want to Smurf yourself in the head after its over? Surprisingly, its less painful than youd think. Ive got no spite towards The Smurfs, those gegarious little blue gnomes who wear bloated upside-down diapers on their heads and are apparently allergic to shirts. Arguably less insipid than the three (!) Alvin and the Chipmunks movies and likely to make you less sleepy than Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties, Raja Gosnells first Smurfs movie was a harmless, plastic kids movie that tickled the little ones but ended the job there. It was more or less instantly forgettable, which was a smart marketing move because it has allowed Gosnell to go ahead and remake it all over again without anyone caring either way. If theres anything particularly wearisome about The Smurfs II, is that its really just more of the same, keeping the Smurfy essence of the original in hopes it ignites a similar box office. Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays are innocuously cashing paychecks again as the Winslows, the coupe who helped the Smurfs out in the first film and who have become like a surrogate human family for them. Hank Azaria is arguably the most entertaining thing here, with the exception of his feline accomplice Azrael who gets enough abuse this time arround to alert the PETCGA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Computer Generated Animals). In a rather sad note, Papa Smurf is voiced by the late Jonathan Winters in his final role, a quickie bit of voice work that reminds of the incomparable Orson Welles going out as a giant sentient planet in Transformers: The Movie. The story here is straightforward enough, and slightly more competent than the first go-round, striking a few simplistic but poignant notes for children who are part of adopted or melded families. Smurfette (Katy Perry), now a member of the cloying blue happiness cult, was originally one of Gargamels Naughties, dour clones of the Smurfs who look like especially moody art-school students. In a plan of spectacular convolution, Gargamel kidnaps Smurfette, and with the help of two Naughtiesmeddlesome Vexy (Christina Ricci) and dopey Hackus (J.B. Smoove)intends to coerce from her the transformation spell Papa Smurf used to make her true blue. Once hes got that, he can have his own army of smurfs, which in turn he will drain of their essence, so he can rule the worldor just become a reasonably successful Paris stage magician. I wasnt completely clear on that last part, to be honest. Of course Papa and Grouchy, Vanity and Clumsy (George Lopez, John Oliver, Anton Yelchin) team up with the Winslows, their young son Blue (Jacob Tremblay) and Pats stepfather (Brendan Gleeson), to save Smurfette before she turns to the Naughty side forever . Yes, thats the part I forgot to mention. The Smurfs II, for no really good reason other than a welcome change of scenery, is set in Paris, France. Good thing too, because by the time the picture is in full swing, much adult interest will be waning. No better way to spruce that up then with a little Parisian ambience that provides a lush backdrop for the one-note shenanigans. Kids may even pick up some sense of culture here, outside of learning to replace every other word with smurf. Like the last go-round theres a lot of gentle comedy that stumbles towards one-too-many pratfalls and gobs and gobs of earnest Hallmark card sentiment. Still, Gosnell keeps things speedy, light, and good-natured, even delivering a couple of decent chuckles here and there. It also helps that amidst all the blue cuddliness, Azaria makes Gargamel oddly easy to root for as the Smurfs nemesis. Kids who had a good time at the first movie will probably feel the same way, even as they realize this is mostly just disposable, one-time play. Parents will be relieved that its a mild improvement over the original movie. Gleeson, as the well-meaning and under-appreciated stepdad (whp spends too much time as a duck!) was a character I could have used more of. Hes about the only one whos approaching the level of a real character, and whose presence actually has something to say to families watching The Smurfs 2. Unlike hammy chestnuts of wisdom proclaimed from the dulcet lips of Papa Smurf, theres no substitute for sincere feeling. The Smurfs 2 is now Smurfing in Wide Release.