Dir: Raja Gosnell. US. 2013. 105mins

The Smurfs 2

The story may seem a bit familiar, but hybrid live action/animated sequel The Smurfs 2 at least adds a photogenic international setting, enhanced effects and a few new characters to the formula that made its affable predecessor a $564m family comedy smash for Sony two years ago. Another big international-skewed take should be on the cards this time out, though competitive conditions could effect the tallies in individual markets.

Raja Gosnell returns as director and ably delivers slapstick comedy for the kids and nicely shot views of Paris landmarks for the adults.

In North America, where it gets a jump on the weekend with a July 31 opening, the 3D sequel arrives in cinemas soon after Despicable Me 2 and Turbo and just before Planes – so beating the original’s $143m gross won’t be a given. In international markets, many of which get the sequel this weekend too, competition may be lighter, so topping the original’s $421m might be doable.

With a script from the original’s four writers plus one more scribe, the sequel once again has a team of Smurfs - the happy little blue creatures that first appeared in a 1958 Belgian comic book - leaving their idyllic village for the human world. This time, Papa Smurf and his helpers are out to rescue Smurfette from evil wizard Gargamel (again played by Hank Azaria), the female Smurf’s original creator, now doing stage magic in Paris. Jonathan Winters and Katy Perry return to head the voice cast and they’re joined by new additions including Christina Ricci and British comedian John Oliver.

In the human world, the Smurfs re-unite with young marrieds Patrick and Grace Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays, both returning from the original) and get extra help from Patrick’s genial stepfather Victor (new cast member Brendan Gleeson).

Hybrid specialist Raja Gosnell returns as director and ably delivers slapstick comedy for the kids and nicely shot views of Paris landmarks for the adults.

The effects are more elaborate and plentiful than they were in the relatively low tech original and there’s another message about the importance of family — this time Smurfette learns that her adopted father Papa means more to her than ‘real father’ Gargamel while Patrick works through similar issues with Victor.

Production companies: Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Animation, Kerner Entertainment Company

Worldwide distribution: Sony

Producer: Jordan Kerner

Executive producers: Ezra Swerdlow, Ben Haber, Paul Neesan

Screenplay: J David Stern & David N Weiss, Jay Scherick & David Ronn, Karey Kirkpatrick

Cinematography: Phil Méheux

Editor: Sabrina Plisco

Production designer: Bill Boes

Visual effects supervisor: Richard R Hoover

Music: Heitor Pereira

Website: www.smurfhappens.com

Main cast: Neil Patrick Harris, Brendan Gleeson, Jayma Mays, Katy Perry (voice), Hank Azaria