Smurfs: The Lost Village, 2017.
Directed by Kelly Asbury.
Featuring the voice talents of Demi Lovato, Rainn Wilson, Joe Manganiello, Jack McBrayer, Danny Pudi, Mandy Patinkin, Julia Roberts, Michelle Rodriguez, Ellie Kemper, Ariel Winter, Meghan Trainor, Gordon Ramsey, Jake Johnson, Tituss Burgess, Gabriel Iglesias, Jeff Dunham, and Kelly Asbury.
A mysterious map sets Smurfette and her fellow Smurfs Brainy, Clumsy, and Hefty on an exciting race through the Forbidden Forest leading to the discovery of the biggest secret in Smurf history.
It’s no back-handed compliment to say that, though this not-awaited reboot of the Smurfs Cinematic Universe (that’s a thing, right?) is hardly a stellar re-tooling, it is vastly superior to the live-action-animation hybrid films released in 2011 and 2013. It also may not sound particularly flattering to say that Smurfs: The Lost Village blows its best sight gag in the opening Columbia Pictures studio signature, but no, really, this isn’t that bad at all.
Having been created by the villainous Gargamel (Rainn Wilson) out of a lump of clay, Smurfette (Demi Lovato) doesn’t quite feel like she belongs among the other Smurfs, and so sets out on a journey of self-discovery that leads her and her blue pals to the Lost Village, which contains a secret that Gargamel is desperate to get his grubby hands on.
As least half the time, this is probably the Smurfs movie fans deserve (though their feeding over $900 million to the prior two movies combined might suggest otherwise). It is colourful and comes loaded with a nice, earnest message about respect and not judging people by outward appearances, but it’s also fairly bland and may even be offputtingly wholesome to the less-meek viewers among us.
That’s not to say that every kids film needs to be filled to the gills with sarcasm and snark, but the lack of any great or even not-so-great wit makes it probable that adults will start to switch off every time there’s not some flashy set-piece, of which there are thankfully many. Surprise, surprise, though; there’s no sneaky subtext here, and Pixar this is not.
It is exceedingly well-mounted all the same; a pretty penny has clearly been spent hewing this instalment aesthetically closer to its source material, and the improvement speaks for itself. The aforementioned action is meanwhile fun and compelling to a point, and even the boring, talky segments still look rather appealing.
On top of this, there’s an unexpected and frankly unnecessary all-star cast in the bargain. Yes, that Michelle Rodriguez-sounding one really is Michelle Rodriguez, and Julia Roberts and Joe Manganiello also show up, though you probably won’t realise until afterwards. The only performance to really make a significant dent is Mandy Patinkin, who is basically perfectly cast here as Papa Smurf. It’s a crying shame that Hank Azaria couldn’t be lured back to voice Gargamel, because he was easily the best thing about the live-action predecessors, and Rainn Wilson’s forgettable work this time can’t even begin to touch him.
As blandly acceptable as much of the movie is, there are definitely some unexpected oddball affectations; the overt use of pop music is immensely jarring, aside from a montage set to Eiffel 65’s immortal “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” in surely the movie’s most inspired moment; there’s a weirdly misplaced sex joke and a bizarre scene where Gargamel straight-up mouth-kisses his bird of prey sidekick Monty; and the ending is hilariously reminiscent of Batman v Superman (wait for the comparison video in a few months). Unfortunately there’s nowhere near enough eccentricity to fully compensate for the film’s more formulaic elements.
All things considered, Smurfs: The Lost Village isn’t the staggeringly self-aware scrapper you might’ve held out for, but honestly, how many actually expected that? It’s good-looking, barely 80 minutes long (sans credits) and will play well enough with younger tots, though slightly older kids may crave something a little more substantial. Adults probably won’t hate it, but they won’t necessarily like it either.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.