Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation have just announced that production has kicked off on their inevitable “live-action/computer animated hybrid 3Dfamily comedy” sequel to last year’s smash hit, The Smurfs.

The Smurfs 2 brings back all of the cast from the first film, including Neil Patrick Harris as Patrick Winslow, Jayma Mays as Grace Winslow, Sofia Vergara as Odile, Hank Azaria as Gargamel, Katy Perry as Smurfette, Jonathan Winters as Papa Smurf, Alan Cumming as Gutsy, Fred Armisen as Brainy, George Lopez as Grouchy, and Anton Yelchin as Clumsy. Director Raja Gosnell is also back behind the camera. Screenwriters J. David Stem, David N. Weiss, Jay Scherick, and David Ronn are also returning, along with a newcomer to the Smurfs franchise, Karey Kirkpatrick (James and the Giant Peach, Chicken Run, Charlotte’s Web), proving that it takes five screenwriters to write something this unoriginal.

The film will have some new faces, however, both on the human and the blue side. Brendan Gleeson joins the cast as Patrick ‘s stepfather, along with Christina Ricci and JB Smoove, who will voice “new Smurf-like naughty characters,” Vexy and Hackus. Uh oh, just “Smurf-like“?

The time around, the film focuses on the evil wizard Gargamel (you don’t say!) who “creates a couple of mischievous Smurf-like creatures called the Naughties that he hopes will let him harness the all-powerful, magical Smurf-essence. But when he discovers that only a real Smurf can give him what he wants — and only a secret spell that Smurfette knows can turn the Naughties into real Smurfs — Gargamel kidnaps Smurfette and brings her to Paris, where he has been winning the adoration of millions as the world’s greatest sorcerer. It’s up to Papa, Clumsy, Grouchy, and Vanity to return to our world, reunite with their human friends Patrick and Grace Winslow, and rescue her! Will Smurfette, who has always felt different from the other Smurfs, find a new connection with the Naughties Vexy and Hackus – or will the Smurfs convince her that their love for her is True Blue?” Oh, gross, that actually sounds kind of fun.

The sequel was announced back in August, thanks to the strength of the first film’s giant $560m worldwide box office take. But big money still didn’t save it critically, as the film currently has a 23% Rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes and even had the distinction of making it on to our list of the 22 Worst Films of 2011. The “oh, but it’s a kids movie!” excuse gets applied to this kind of film quite frequently, but in a world where Pixar exists, that excuse just doesn’t hold water anymore. Kids movies can be entertaining to all ages and have a heart and a message. Here’s to hoping that this next Smurfs keeps that in mind.

The Smurfs 2 will hit U.S. theaters on July 31, 2013. [Press Release, via ComingSoon]


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