By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)
Unlike the previous Smurf films produced by Sony/Columbia Pictures, this latest blue adventure gets a completely animated treatment and doesn’t have any live-action scenes with actors. However, like the previous films, this new movie has very little to offer any grown-up fans of the miniature, cobalt heroes and feels completely geared for children. If parents can miraculously avoid having to take their children to this film, then they will have saved themselves some time and money. With a completely transparent and somewhat nonsensical plot, mostly silly humor, and a ridiculous conclusion, Smurfs: The Lost Village is nearly a lost cause, save for the work of the mostly excellent voice cast and a few jokes that actually work.
In their humble forest village, the Smurfs enjoy the simple life under the leadership of Papa Smurf (Mandy Patinkin). Every Smurf seems to have their own designated vocation in the village, except for Smurfette (Demi Lovato), the only female in the village. The creation of evil wizard Gargamel (Rainn Wilson), Smurfette was originally made to help capture and destroy the Smurfs, but had a major change of heart when won over by the lovable creatures. When Smurfette discovers clues that may lead to another Smurf village, she decides to seek it out in hopes of discovering her proper place in the world. However, the evil Gargamel has plans of his own for the new village.
Written by Stacey Harman and Pamela Ribbon (based on the characters by Peyo), and directed by Kelly Asbury (Shrek 2, Gnomeo & Juliet), Smurfs: The Lost Village will probably keep children occupied and entertained for an hour and a half, but adults will definitely want to sit this one out. This is one of those movies better left for home viewing where the grown-ups can walk away from the TV while the kids can be left to enjoy the colorful animation and silly antics. The filmmakers attempt to tell a story that makes Smurfette a more dimensional character and the film does succeed in giving her more of a purpose, but the plot makes little sense other than to introduce more Smurf characters and kill ninety minutes of one’s time. The movie does have its funny moments, but has way too many jokes and pratfalls with no payoffs.
The movie has a great voice cast, which is a shame because their talents get squandered in mediocrity. In addition to Demi Lovato who performs well as Smurfette and Patinkin who has the perfect gentle voice as Papa Smurf, Joe Maganiello voices Hefty Smurf and has the perfect masculine voice for the character. Jack Brayer brings his brand of sweet-hearted goofiness to Clumsy. Danny Pudi gets appropriately nasal as Brainy and Jake Johnson has the perfect gruffness for Grouchy. The film also features solid work by Julia Roberts, Ariel Winter, Michelle Rodriguez, Ellie Kemper and many more celebrities. I must say I wasn’t all that impressed with Rainn Wilson as Gargamel. I grew up watching the old Smurfs cartoons during the 1980s and voice actor Paul Winchell had a wonderfully distinct voice and laugh as the wicked villain. Hank Azaria did well as the live-action version of Gargamel in the previous films and I was a bit disappointed that he didn’t return to voice the animated version.
However, to tell the truth, I wasn’t all that disappointed with the film overall, as my expectations were somewhat low. Going into this new Smurfs movie, I knew Sony/Columbia had yet to make a great Smurfs movie and I had suspected that this one would be no different. I realize that the role of the Smurfs is not necessarily to make any bold or profound statements about humanity, but it would be nice if they actually had well-written and presented lessons for their intended audience. This one tries to do this, but lacks the proper story to do so effectively.