The Smurfs 2 (U) ***

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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.

The Smurfs 2. Picture: PA Photo/Sony Pictures UK.

The Smurfs 2. Picture: PA Photo/Sony Pictures UK.

Having recounted the transformation of Smurfette (Katy Perry) 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.

Papa Smurf must avert total Smurf-a-geddon with a trio of unlikely sidekicks.

Meanwhile, Smurfette meets Vexy’s brother Hackus (JB Smoove) and begins to wonder where she truly belongs.