This all-animated reboot is not great in terms of entertainment, but it has a worthwhile message.
Is it worth $10? Yes
In another submission to the gorge of Hollywood unoriginality, now even the Smurfs have a reboot. No, it’s not particularly good. But it does have a strong message of individuality for little girls, which is certainly a worthwhile virtue to showcase. If only it had more virtues.
“Smurfs: The Lost Village” is not a follow up to the live action-based “Smurfs” movies from 2011 and 2013. Neil Patrick Harris isn’t here, and Hank Azaria has retired his Gargamel. Instead, this is a fully animated effort that’s purely for kids – there’s nothing here for anyone over the age of 13, let alone adults.
It starts by introducing us to the world of the Smurfs, and reminding us that each Smurf is named after his defining characteristic. There’s Jokey (Gabriel Iglesias), Vanity (Tituss Burgess), Grouchy (Jake Johnson), Nosey (Kelly Asbury, who also directed the film), and of course Papa Smurf (Mandy Patinkin). Fully formed characters these are not.
The lone exception is Smurfette (Demi Lovato), who was made of clay and is not a “real Smurf,” which means she doesn’t have a defining characteristic. One would think that in an all-male community of Smurfs being female would be a defining characteristic, but that’s thinking too deep about a world of little blue people.
Smurfette’s quest to find herself includes running off with Clumsy (Jack McBrayer), Brainy (Danny Pudi) and Hefty (Joe Manganiello) to find a secret lost village. Evil wizard Gargamel (Rainn Wilson), still trying to capture Smurfs to harness their magic for his own gain, also seeks the lost village. A race ensues. Take a wild guess who wins. Julia Roberts, Ellie Kemper and Michelle Rodriguez also provide voices, and their characters make the movie better.
The humor here is cutesy and for kids. It’s rated PG for “mild action and rude humor.” I don’t recall any humor being rude, but the action was certainly mild. A bit forced and lacking in tension as well. The only inspired action sequence finds Gargamel and four Smurfs racing down river rapids that don’t flow the way we expect water to flow, but even this plays out in typical ways.
The dull action could be compensated for by the animation, but that too – from Sony Pictures Animation – leaves a bit to be desired. The Smurfs inhabit a bright and colorful world, and though what’s on screen is certainly bright and colorful, it’s not dynamic. For a better version of something similar, watch “Trolls” from last year. At least that has catchy pop songs too.
All that said, the bottom line is that “Smurfs: The Lost Village” is aimed squarely at youngsters, and because it’s mildly amusing and has a great message for girls, it warrants a moderate recommendation. A movie can only be as good as it’s trying to be, and when you’re trying to empower little girls with a strong message and succeed, it’s my responsibility to give credit where it’s due. Credit granted.
Did you know?
Chef Gordon Ramsay voices Baker Smurf. This is easy to miss because he only has one line.