"The Smurfs 2" is an amusing animated and live action feature film with excellent character voices, jokey dialogue and terrific animation that should be enjoyed by the pre-10 year-old set and hold the attention of most parents or guardians.

The characters were created by Peyo, aka Pierre Culliford, a Belgium comic-strip artist-writer. The name Smurf is a Dutch language translation of an invented French word, Schtroumpf, a made-up word for salt.

Smurfs wear Phrygian caps, which, when worn, was said to represent freedom in the Roman Empire. "The Smurfs" TV show ran from 1981 - 2003.

For being so blue in color, The Smurfs are giddily happy, as they sing "The Smurf Song." You and your family may leave the movie theater in a very Smurfy mood.

The Smurfs' comic-strip and TV show two-dimensional sweetness is offset by the movie's computer-generated imagery. The movie Smurfs cavort in realistic-looking scenes (especially the Smurf Village) and interact with the live-action actors.

The plot is paper-napkin thin. Smurfette has been kidnapped by Gargamel, posing as a master magician in Paris. Smurfette knows how to turn the evil sorcerer's creations, the Naughties, into real Smurfs. It has something to do with "Smurf essence."

Yes, it doesn't make much sense to me, either.

The screenplay gets a bit Smurfy self-help book, as in "The Zen of Smurfdom" or "Life According to Smurfs."

The actors returning from "The Smurfs" (2011) make "The Smurfs 2" likeable because they are very likeable.

Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays as the married couple, Patrick and Grace Winslow, and Brendan Gleeson as Victor Winslow make Smurf World seem credible because they believe in the little blue folks.

Hank Azaria as Gargamel is a comic villain so buffoonish that we feel sorry for him. Gargamel's cat Azrael is funny and bizarre just like real-life cats.

There's depth to the voice talent: Katy Perry (Smurfette), Christina Ricci (Vexy), George Lopez (Grouchy Smurf), Fred Amisen (Brainy Smurf), Jeff Foxworthy (Handy Smurf), Alan Cumming (Gutsy Smurf), Paul Reubens (Jokey Smurf), Shaquille O'Neal (Smooth Smurf), Jimmy Kimmel (Passive-Aggressive Smurf) and Jonathan Winters (Papa Smurf).

Raja Gosnell ("Beverly Hills Chihuahua," "Scooby-Doo" and its sequel), who directed the first "Smurfs" theatrical release, has a way with gentle family fare. Rather than going for the jugular, his comedy is more "wink- wink, nudge-nudge."

The screenplay by "The Smurfs" team: J. David Stem, David N. Weiss, Jay Scherick, David Ronn, plus Karey Kirkpatrick ("The Spiderwick Chronicles," "Charlotte's Web") plays to youngsters' sensibilities with lots of running, jumping and falling by the Smurfs and a modicum of wit for adults.

For example: when Victor is turned into a goose, he's told: "Victor, you look fowl."

"The Smurfs 2" was seen in 2D for this review. However, from the opening pop-up book narration sequence to the Roue de Paris (a huge Ferris wheel) getting loose and rolling through Paris, this is one film I wish I had seen in 3D.

Well, there's always "The Smurfs 3," which is in production.

The Smurfs 2," MPAA rated PG (Guidance Suggested. Some Material May Not Be Suitable For Children ) for some rude humor and action; Genre: Animation, Comedy, Family; Run time: 1 hour 45 min.; distributed by Columbia Pictures-Sony Entertainment.

Credit Readers Anonymous: As Britney Spears sings "Ooh La La," Smurfs cavort during "The Smurfs 2" closing credits .Stay to the very end for a scene with Gargamel and Azrael. The movie is dedicated to the late comedian-actor Jonathan Winters.

Box Office, Aug. 9: "Elysium" orbited to No. 1, opening, $30.4 million, edging other new releases: No. 2. "We're The Millers," $26.5 million, weekend; $38 million, Aug. 7 opening; No. 3. "Planes," $22.5 million, and No. 4. "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters," $14.6 million, weekend $23.4 million, Aug. 7 opening;

5. "2 Guns," $11.1 million, $48.5 million, two weeks; 6. "The Smurfs 2," $9.5 million, $46.6 million, two weeks; 7."The Wolverine," $8 million, $111.9 million, three weeks; 8. "The Conjuring," $6.7 million, $120.7 million, four weeks; 9. "Despicable Me 2," $5.7 million; $338 million, six weeks; 10. "Grown Ups 2," $3.7 million, $121 million, five weeks

Unreel, Aug. 16:

"Kick-Ass 2," R: The costumed high school hero is back in the action comedy that stars Chloe Grace Moretz, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Jim Carrey.

"Paranoia," PG-13: A new employee finds himself involved in corporate intrigue in the drama starring Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Liam Hemsworth and Amber Heard.

"Lee Daniels' The Butler," PG-13: Forest Whitaker and John Cusack star in the biopic drama directed by Lee Daniels about an African-American butler at the White House.

"Jobs," PG-13: Ashton Kutcher stars in the biopic drama as Steve Jobs, the Apple entrepreneur.

"Prince Avalanche," R: Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch star in the comedy-drama about a summer of misadventures.

"Ain't Them Bodies Saints," No MPAA rating: Rooney Mara, Ben Foster and Casey Affleck star in the drama about an prison escape in Texas.

Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press web site, lehighvalleypress. com and the Times-News web site, tnonline.com. Email Paul Willistein: pwillistein@tnonline.com.

Two Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes