What’s the most skin-crawling genre of the last 20 years? The torture-porn horror film? Any romantic comedy starring Gerard Butler? For my money, it’s the kiddie movie that features cuddly-cute animated heroes but is really a bonk-you-over-the-head piece of live-action junk. I’m talking about kitschy, noisy product-tie-in adventures like Garfield, the Alvin and the Chipmunks films, The Smurfs, and now The Smurfs 2. Let’s be clear: I like Garfield and the Chipmunks, and I’ve got no problem with the Smurfs, who in Smurfs 2 are winsomely charming. They’re like the Seven Dwarfs crossed with blueberry Hobbits.
The trouble with this stunted sequel is that the doughy, blobby-hatted Smurfs are mostly window dressing for an abrasive slapstick bash built around a tiresome kidnap plot, pancake-flat gags about Facebook and ”Smurf-holm Syndrome,” and Neil Patrick Harris mugging his way through the role of a daddy with daddy issues who once again helps out our heroes. As Gargamel, the leering wizard who dresses like a Trappist Monk and has now abducted Smurfette (voiced by Katy Perry), Hank Azaria munches on the scenery like he was being paid by the decibel. C