Sony has tried to bring the lovable and iconic blue Smurfs to the big screen twice before, failing to garner much critical success. Hoping to breath new life into the franchise, the studio has released a reboot, “Smurfs: The Lost Village”, that ditches the previous live-action/CGI hybrid style of the previous films for a fully animated adventure that, truth be told, has more heart and is much more enjoyable than its two predecessors combined.
“Smurfs: The Lost Village” finds the only female Smurf, Smurfette who was created as a weapon against the Smurfs by the evil wizard Gargamel, trying to find her place in a society where every Smurf has their personality or purpose. After Smurfette finds herself temporarily kidnapped by her creator, both she and Gargamel stumble on the existence of a mysterious tribe in the forbidden forest and together with Hefty Smurf, Brainy Smurf, and Clumsy Smurf Smurfette sets out on an adventure to warn the newly discovered clan of the evil wizard’s dastardly plans.
On the whole “The Lost Village” is actually a pretty generic animated feature with typical storylines, colorful child friendly antics, and enough modern pop hits to fill a “NOW!” collection. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie per say. “The Lost Village” is actually very watchable. Demi Lovato, Joe Manganiello, Jack McBrayer, Danny Pudi, Rainn Wilson and Mandy Patinkin lead an all-star cast of big-name voice actors who all portray the Smurfs very effectively while the likes of Julia Roberts, Michelle Rodriguez, Ellis Kemper, and Ariel Winter portray members of the discovered lost village. Their fun, their goofy, and their as lovable as any fan would hope the Smurfs would be, far surpassing the over the top and disturbing interpretations from the first two films.
While the animation is a bit sub-par, this is a colorful film with beautiful set pieces and designs to satisfy anyone’s taste for a little bit of fairytale flair. As we follow the Smurfs on their adventure we get to see peril, a few comedic mishaps, and some uplifting story arcs that we’ve all experienced before, but somehow “The Lost Village” manages to bring something special to the table. Nothing unique per say, but just something special for a lack of a better term. As I watched the story unfold I kind of found myself feeling like a kid again when my parents used to take me to that one animated movie I waited all year to see. “The Lost Village” does what few modern animated films manage to accomplish by taking the same old tired styles and approach, but making them as enjoyable as they were the first time you saw it on the big screen. It’s a rare treat.
Despite this I can’t let “The Lost Village” off the hook for its lack of originality and rather poor pacing. For a reboot, this film expects the viewer to understand the setting of the story a little to quickly and while I’m glad they didn’t rehash an origin for the Smurfs, the films opening twenty minutes seems to draw the line between being a continuation of the first two films and creating its own universe. While this makes the movie watchable for both fans of the original two movies and those new to the franchise, it leaves the film unable to really find its own identity until Gargamel and Smurfette come into conflict to jumpstart the plot. From there it’s an almost nonstop assault on the senses as the Smurfs find themselves up against predictable roadblocks that, while enjoyable to watch, don’t really help the film stand out as anything short of a collection of tired animated clichés.
All that said I was rather impressed with “Smurfs: The Lost Village”. While not a work of art and guilty of a bit of pandering with it’s dependence of familiar themes as well as leaning on a few surprise voice cameos and hit pop songs to draw the audience in, “The Lost Village” is a surprisingly fun and heartwarming animated adventure that reminds us why these characters were so lovable in the first place. What it lacks in creativity and originality it makes up for in effective laughs and a memorable and relatable cast of unique characters that I think everyone could find some way to enjoy. While Sony misfired massively in it’s first two Smurf films, it appears the third time was the charm. They finally found a way to do the property justice and give the Smurfs a fitting and fun big screen adventure.