By Bob Garver
I make it a point not to put out year-end Worst lists because there are so many bad movies that I can’t be bothered to see. I have better things to do with my time and money than waste them on bombs that couldn’t find an audience. But rest assured that if I did put out Worst lists, both “The Smurfs” and “The Smurfs 2” would have featured very prominently on the 2011 and 2013 lists, respectively. Those hideous live-action/CGI hybrids were an ill-advised attempt to modernize the Smurfs, which meant lots of breakdancing and crude humor. It was obvious after the second movie that there was no future for the franchise such as it was, so the decision was made to scrap the format and start anew. The result is “Smurfs: The Lost Village,” which replaces the entire voice cast, features no live-action, and dials it way back on the really painful jokes. I’m glad to say that the changes are an improvement, though there wasn’t exactly a need for a new “Smurfs” movie in the first place.
The story centers around Smurfette (Demi Lovato) and her struggle to find her place in the Smurf community. All of the other Smurfs have distinctive roles or traits that are reflected in their names. Papa Smurf (Mandy Patinkin) is fatherly, Hefty Smurf (Joe Manganiello) is strong, Clumsy Smurf (Jack McBrayer) is a klutz, Brainy Smurf (Danny Pudi) at least thinks he’s smart, and so on. But Smurfette’s name doesn’t tell the world anything about her, so she doesn’t know what she’s supposed to do. She doesn’t even know if she’s really a Smurf, since she wasn’t born into the Smurf community, but rather created by the evil wizard Gargamel (Rainn Wilson) to go undercover for nefarious purposes. She later decided to become a Smurf full-time, but is being a Smurf something one can “decide” to do?
One day Smurfette discovers that there might be another village of Smurfs living somewhere in the forest. She’s immediately captured by Gargamel, who finds out about the lost Smurf village for himself. He plans to ransack the village first thing in the morning, so it’s up to Smurfette, Hefty, Brainy, and Clumsy to find the village first and warn the new Smurfs about the attack. Papa disapproves of the mission, but Smurfette believes it’s her purpose to help the new Smurfs, who all turn out to be girls like her.
There’s something awfully familiar about the new Smurf village. The environment stays largely on the left side of the color wheel, with lots of greens, blues, and purples. There are all manner of exciting new plants and animals. The new Smurfs emphasize a love of nature and one of them is voiced by Michelle Rodriguez. Add that to Smurfette’s “going native” backstory and I’d say this movie is trying to invoke “Avatar.” I guess the filmmakers wanted to take that “Dances With Smurfs” joke from “South Park” to the next level.
“Smurfs: The Lost Village” at least seems like a proper Smurfs movie, instead of the Smurfs trying to be something they’re not. Whether or not you like this movie depends on how much you (or more likely, your kids) want to see a movie about the Smurfs, who have always been cutesy characters without much depth. I was in a bad mood when I saw this movie, and I have to admit that it picked me up a little. I laughed at a few of the gags, especially one about a Smurf defined by a nonsensical trait. It turns out I’m okay with the Smurfs just being Smurfs. I can’t say that this film should be a priority if you’re looking for the best in family entertainment, but if you’ve already worked your way through your top choices, this is a decent middle-of-the-road option.
Two Stars out of Five
“Smurfs: The Lost Village” is rated PG for some mild action and crude humor. Its running time is 89 minutes.
Bob Garver is the movie critic for the Southern Arizona News-Examiner. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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