Before we start, we’ll answer your two burning questions regarding Smurfs: The Lost Village, the brand new animation from Sony Productions based on the Belgian comic and 80s cartoon series.
Is this the sucky sequel?
Good news! Nope, this isn’t the continuation of the horrible live-action Smurfs films starring Neil Patrick Harris. We love you NPH, but Smurfs was a career low for you. In fact, think of this 2017 film as a semi-decent apology for those money-grubbing atrocities as there is no link from this to that, whatsoever.
Do they look like crap (literally)?
Even better news! Nope, the 2017 Smurfs don’t look like the reanimated blue poop of Mac (of Mac & Me ‘fame’). This film is as cartoony and as fantasy-laden as it can be.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can now get to blue tacks. Smurfs:The Lost Village stays mostly true to the adventure-filled trappings of its source material, which for many of us, is the Saturday morning cartoons. But it also adds in some welcome-yet-predictable additions to the mythos of the Smurfs.
At the same time, this is a children’s cartoon so for the adults in the audience, it does fall short because when you sing a happy song, you’re expected to have a happy ending.
The story starts with the usual introduction of the blue Smurfs community, each with their designated roles; Baker Smurf bakes, Joker Smurf plays practical jokes, and so forth.
Smurfette (Demi Lovato), the sole female of the village and lead character of the film, sets out together with Brainy Smurf (Danny Pudi), Clumsy Smurf (Jack McBrayer), and Hefty Smurf (Joe Manganiello) on a quest to warn a new, previously unknown Smurf village located in uncharted territory, that the evil wizard Gargamel (Rainn Wilson) is coming to kidnap them and drain their magic for more power.
Along the way, Smurfette wonders what her lot in life is, since she doesn’t come with any kind of designation unlike her brethren. What is a “fette” anyway?
What the foursome end up finding is what any self-respecting adult will expect, given the show’s darndest to make the Smurfette principle trope obsolete, a lost village of well, Smurfs filled with only females. Still, the revelation and payoff is executed well. It’s a refreshing notion to see the Smurfs’ lore get a modern-day shake-up, and also funny in a way because of Smurf creator Peyo’s misogynistic views brought onto ink in the original.
But no cartoon can rely on aesthetics alone, although its simple but lively 3D animation looks closer to the source material than the previous two films, and the spiraling river segment is a standout sequence. At the very least, the Smurfs and the villains are serviceable and endearing on their own merit. Smurfette and Hefty are what you would expect: she’s the main lead who becomes the standout heroine she was meant to be, while Hefty gets relegated to being the muscle-bound support character.
Brainy is less obnoxious compared to the original cartoon, and has a ladybug that acts as the world’s ‘smart device’, selfie picture-taking and all. Clumsy is actually competent for a Smurf designated to mess things up, and has a few one-liners here and there.
Gargamel and his mute henchpets Azrael and Harold are one part comedy trio and other part cartoon bad guys that forward the drama along. The cast’s interactions and camaraderie with each other aren’t going to win awards, but it’s not completely forced and you root for them to win while also chuckling at their antics. There’s even a tear-jerking twist near the end that would have been effective if it didn’t cop out and, well, you’ll see.
And that’s the film’s main problem: it only packs small shades of brilliance within its typecasted husk. While nostalgia geeks can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that this show stays true to the Smurfs spirit, the rest of the world should remember that this show’s tailored for its younger audience. The on-the-nose jokes, predictable beats, and obnoxious-at-times pop music interludes are a constant irritating reminder of that.
And seriously Sony – where’s the classic Smurf’s La La Song? It didn’t even play at the end of the movie!