The Lost Village is standard, kid-friendly entertainment, but it succeeds at bringing the colorful Smurfs universe to playfully-animated life.
Life in Smurf Village is peaceful, in no small part because everyone who lives there – from their leader Papa Smurf (Mandy Patinkin) to highly-intelligent Brainy Smurf (Danny Pudi), awkward but lovable Clumsy Smurf (Jack McBrayer) and brawny-yet kind Hefty Smurf (Joe Manganiello) – knows what they are about and where they fit in Smurf society. The exception to that rule is Smurfette (Demi Lovato): the lone female Smurf, who was originally created by the wizard Gargamel (Rainn Wilson) to wreak havoc upon Smurf Village, before Papa Smurf used his magic on her to transform Smurfette into a force for good.
One day, while out having fun in the woods beyond Smurf Village with the rest of “Team Smurf” (re: Brainy, Clumsy and Hefty), Smurfette crosses paths with a mysterious creature that leaves behind a map – one that might lead to a “Lost Village” of Smurfs, located somewhere in the Forbidden Forest. When Gargamel finds out about the possible existence of this “Lost Village,” he sets out to find this place for himself and harness the magic of the Smurfs who live there, for his own nefarious purposes. Thus, it’s up to Smurfette and the other Smurfs to stop Gargamel and/or find their way to the village first, to warn them.
Smurfs: The Lost Village is a fully-animated reboot of the Smurfs movie franchise from Sony Pictures Animation – in addition to being a step-up in overall quality from the two live-action/CGI Smurfs films that came before it. At the same time, The Lost Village falls well short of achieving the depth of storytelling and computer-animation artistry of comparable animated movies; in this case, specifically The Peanuts Movie, another modern 3D-animated film based on a much older 2D cartoon/comic strip property, a la Smurfs. The Lost Village is standard, kid-friendly entertainment, but it succeeds at bringing the colorful Smurfs universe to playfully-animated life.
Drawing from a screenplay written by Stacey Harman (The Goldbergs) and Pamela Ribon (Moana), Smurfs: The Lost Village follows Smurfette on a thinly-sketched and predictable, but also focused and straight-forward adventure, as well as a personal journey of self-discovery. The first act of the film aptly covers a fair amount of narrative ground, between introducing the various characters of the Smurfs universe and quickly going over Smurfette’s backstory (for those less-versed in Smurfs history). Most of the rest of the movie plays out as a series of episodic developments, based around the obstacles that Smurfette and the rest of “Team Smurf” encounter on their expedition – to the degree that “The Lost Village” and its citizens don’t get much development, prior to the third act’s climax getting underway. At the same time, this allows The Lost Village to avoid dragging its feet and maintain a brisk, but not overly-frantic pace during its (short) runtime.
Smurfs: The Lost Village was directed by Kelly Asbury – co-helmer of Shrek 2 and sole director on Gnomeo & Juliet – and features most of the same elements as Asbury’s previous animated features, both good and bad. The imaginative Smurfs world that was originally created by Belgian artist Peyo (and colored by his wife, Janine Clifford, until her death last year) benefits from making the transition into a full-fledged 3D universe; in turn, The Lost Village has its fair share of creative fantasy visuals and expressive, yet still “cartoony” characters to offer. Unfortunately, the movie’s whimsical atmosphere clashes with the formulaic kid movie ingredients in play here – including, the usage of pop songs as background music, as well as the references to modern technology and lifestyles. The Lost Village works better when it goes for a timeless feel with its humor and cinematic storytelling, as opposed to its attempts to be hip and trendy.
The main voice actor in Smurfs: The Lost Village – Demi Lovato (Smurfette), Danny Pudi (Brainy Smurf), Jack McBrayer (Clumsy Smurf) and Joe Manganiello (Hefty Smurf) – are by and large typecast here, based on their best-known movie and/or TV show personas. That’s not a bad thing in this case, as much of the characterization of the various Smurfs comes from their distinct vocal mannerisms, as much as it does from how they are written. The film hints at giving the members of “Team Smurf” arcs of their own, but for the most part they don’t change so much as they learn simple-yet-useful lessons for younger audiences (see: learning to work together as a group). Again though, thanks to the actors behind them, the individual Smurfs have enough personality to make them fun to follow on their adventure.
Rounding out The Lost Village voice cast are such fan-favorites as Mandy Patinkin (Homeland) as Papa Smurf and Rainn Wilson (The Office) as Gargamel, in addition to a number of big names as the members of “The Lost Village”. While the larger Smurfs: The Lost Village ensemble is mostly solid across the board and tends to strike the right tone (Patinkin is wise, but gruff; Wilson is comically over the top; and so forth), arguably the real standouts in the supporting voice cast are the actors who never fully speak in English. Indeed, seasoned voice actor Frank Welker and longtime associate editor Bret Marnell are both quite memorable as, respectively, Gargamel’s too-smart-for-his-own-good cat Azrael and the Smurfs’ loyal Snappy Bug.
Smurfs: The Lost Village is a generic, kid-friendly animated feature, but it’s a step in the right direction – as well as an improvement on the previous attempts to bring the Smurfs to computer-animated life in the real world. Its faults aside, The Lost Village is a “proper” Smurfs movie in the sense that it comes off as less of a calculated attempt to cash in on audiences’ nostalgia for the Smurfs property, while offering cheap entertainment for the juice box crowd. The Smurfs franchise is still foremost for youngsters and die-hard Smurfs fans, but at least it’s delivering passable entertainment now.
Smurfs: The Lost Village is now playing in U.S. theaters nationwide. It is 89 minutes long and is Rated PG for mild action and rude humor.
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