When the first Smurfs movie (2011), starring the likes of Hank Azaria and Neil Patrick Harris, released, one thing became clear – the animated Smurfs didn't work in a real world, live action setting. This notion was only reinforced in the 2013 sequel, and has finally been ditched in Smurfs: The Lost Village, in favour of a completely animated movie.
However, while this should have elevated The Lost Village above its predecessors, a whole host of other failings roots the flick firmly in the kids-only region. Anyone over the age of eight will probably find it ambitionless, cliched, and dull.
For kids only
The movie follows four Smurfs – Smurfette (Demi Lovato), Clumsy (Jack McBrayer), Hefty (Joe Manganiello), and Brainy (Danny Pudi) – as they go on an adventure to the Forbidden Forest, to warn a 'lost' Smurf village about the evil Smurf-hunting wizard, Gargamel (Rainn Wilson).
While the plot itself, especially with the introduction of the Forbidden Forest, really gives the writers a wide canvas to work with, there is a strict adherence to mediocrity. Rather than be truly creative, we're given an endless dose of bright colours in the form of flowers, glowing insects, glowing bunnies, and the like.
The dialogue is similarly rooted in simplicity, with humour – arguably the most important element in animated movies, almost entirely missing. Smurfette's group of Smurfs do not ever utter anything even close to funny, with their dialogues limited to saccharine sweet exchanges and wide-eyed wonderment.
Rainn Wilson's Gargamel is, therefore, the only source of any genuine levity in the film, but he appears only fleetingly in the movie, and, even then, is mostly wasted on slapstick gags.
This approach ensures that it will only connect with very young children. The movie does try to be more than it is with some half-baked feminist messaging, but the lack of nuance and screen time devoted to it ensures it has little impact.
All star, no substance
The Lost Village was never going to be a cinematic piece de resistance. However, it also had no reason to be an absolute snoozefest either. With tight, even if unimaginative, animation, a beloved franchise, and a considerable budget, it could have at least entertained. It does not.
Instead, the movie seems to believe that if you cram enough stars in, the film can be salvaged. As result, we get a cast that boasts Michelle Rodriguez, Julia Roberts, Megan Trainor, and Ariel Winter.
However, these stars are used so fleetingly and, even then, poorly, that it does precious little to salvage the film.
Worse, given that they are only doing voices, the presence of these stars goes largely unnoticed, especially in the homogeneous Smurf universe. As such, the movie is left with nothing redeeming, and the final credits could not have come fast enough.
Should you watch it?
If you're a parent of a young child who's had a few sleepless nights, treat the movie as your chance to take a one-and-a-half-hour power nap, safe in the knowledge that the bright colours and poppy score will keep your child occupied. If that situation doesn't apply to you, spare yourself.
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