Smurfs: The Lost Village Review: Welcome to Smurfette's Existential Crisis
Smurfs: The Lost Village takes our favorite mushroom dwellers on a new, purely animated adventure. Neil Patrick Harris and Hank Azaria are not popping up here. The film sends a strong girl power message in vivid CGI. The Lost Village is aimed like a laser at young, kindergarten aged children. There are no double entendres or sly references meant for adults. The target audience will be entertained, the parents not as much; unless they're dipping into the mushrooms as well.
It's a regular, happy day in Smurf Village when Smurfette (Demi Lovato) faces an existential crisis. Brainy (Danny Pudi) makes a device that captures your smurfiness; translated, smurf essence. It works marvelously on Hefty (Joe Manganiello) and Clumsy (Jack McBrayer), but draws a blank on Smurfette. What is she really about? What defines her character? She's the only girl, but created by Gargamel (Rainn Wilson) to trap the Smurfs. Smurfette's search for self leads to an exciting discovery in a far away, forbidden place. But also leads her stalwart companions and Papa Smurf (Mandy Patinkin) into tremendous danger.
It's about time that the only gal in the village got her due. Sony Animation is falling in line with the other studios by having more female protagonists. The Smurfette-centric story is actually creative and logical. As a kid, cereal bowl filled with sugary greatness, Smurfette's personality traits were never an issue. But in the modern world, gender interactions amongst youngsters are a seemingly omnipresent subject. The Smurfs takes a feminist approach that should resonate with today's kids.
The Lost Village has hyper-colorful animation. It's like a rainbow bursting on screen. The press were screened the 2D version, which is kind of a bummer for a movie like this. The Smurfs go on these elaborate chases, some riding glow in the dark bunnies, through a trippy forest. It looks awesome in a standard theater. I can only imagine how eye-popping the CGI would be in 3D.
Thankfully, there's not much singing and dancing in Smurfs 3. The credits have the requisite dance outro, but that's the standard for all family friendly animation. There's also a swath of new Smurfs introduced, along with a goofy vulture for Gargamel. I'm sure toy stores are stocked full of them. The runtime is ninety-minutes. They could have shaved ten minutes off and really lightened the pacing. It runs a bit long as it stands. I was mesmerized by the glowing bunny. That critter needed more screen time.
It's no fault of his own, but Rainn Wilson as Gargamel threw me off. Paul Winchell's voice was one of the most memorable parts of the classic Smurfs cartoon. Wilson sounds nothing like Winchell, but the character looks exactly the same. Kids are not going to have this association issue. I have a feeling some adults that grew up on the Smurfs will.
Coming from Sony Pictures, Smurfs: The Lost Village will put a smile on kid's faces. The message delivered is good and pertinent. I'm glad Sony Animation stuck to the cartoon representation of the Smurfs. It reminds me of Saturday mornings as a kid. The Smurfs are better without live action. No offense to NPH, who can do no wrong in my book. Now lets see what these little blue minions can pull off at the weekend box office.