Nothing against the wonderfully talented Neil Patrick Harris, but I was very happy not to see him in the latest iteration of The Smurfs franchise. For all his immense talent, Harris never belonged in a Smurfs movie, nor did anything else from real world New York for that matter. Taking The Smurfs out of Smurf Village to the non-animated New York City was a terribly unnecessary gimmick that drowned the first cinematic outings of our beloved blue heroes.
Back in the animated world of the forest and Smurfs Village, the new animated adventure “Smurfs: The Lost Village” is not all that much better than the previous two Smurfs outings but better enough to warrant taking note.
Smurfette (Demi Lovato) is struggling with her identity. For those not familiar with the background of the only female Smurf, Smurfette was created by Gargamel as a honeytrap intended to lead him to the Smurf Village where he hoped to capture Smurfs and steal their magic. Fortunately, the Smurfs won Smurfette over and instead of helping Gargamel, here voiced by Rain Wilson, she became a member of their family.
Still, despite the love and support of all of the Smurfs, the guidance from Papa Smurf (Mandy Patinkin), the friendship of Hefty (Joe Manganiello), Brainy (Danny Pudi) and Clumsy (Jack McBrayer) and the acceptance of the rest of the Smurfs, Smurfette can’t shake the sense that there is something missing from her story. When she gets lost in the forest while playing with her friends she encounters for the first time a Smurf unlike her brothers and a new adventure is begun.
The Lost Village of the title is a village filled with female Smurfs including Smurf’s voiced by Julia Roberts, Michelle Rodriguez, Ellie Kemper and popstar Meghan Trainor. Naturally, there are around 100 of these female Smurfs because there are around 100 of the boy Smurfs and reinforcing gender norms is kind of part of the package for this film. I will leave it to you to decide if you want to take offense to that or not, I merely took note of it.
As I mentioned earlier, this version of The Smurfs is only a minor improvement over the first two live action/animated hybrids. I’m very happy they ditched the live action but I wish they could have added a few more laughs to the mix. Smurfs: The Lost Village is not very with laughs coming a distant second to the visual razzle dazzle and a couple of modestly rousing action set pieces, the best involving a magical river and a very small raft.
It’s just unfortunate that the film lacks laughter. I could count on one hand, not using all the fingers on that hand, the number of laugh out loud moments in Smurfs: The Lost Village. The film comes from director Kelly Asbury who garnered a great deal more laughter from his work on Shrek 2 and more action from his Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. Here, Asbury never seems to find the right tone for The Smurfs, the action is fine but the Smurfs isn’t an adventure series, it’s a children’s comedy and this isn’t very funny.
And when I say Smurfs: The Lost Village isn’t funny; I am being very serious. The movie takes a turn in the 3rd act that I will say is quite bold and unexpected but may have the child core of the Smurfs audience very upset. Parents will want to be prepared, the dramatic turn of the third act of The Lost Village will be one that young children may be deeply affected by.
So, do I recommend Smurfs The Lost Village? I didn’t hate the movie but I don’t think it’s very good. It needs more laughs, the last act is borderline disturbing for young audiences but, for the most part the film is inoffensive and may be quite funny to a child, if rather tedious to an adult. The last act could be a little scary for the youngest moviegoers, but this is a Smurfs movie so you can trust that the scarring is minor and well healed by the ending.