Cinematic Releases: Smurfs: The Lost Village (2017) - Reviewed

Peyo’s beloved Smurfs are back to delight a new generation in the new film Smurfs: The Lost Village. These aren’t the “Hip and Cool” Smurfs from the live action/animation hybrid film and its sequel. These are the classic Smurfs everyone knows and loves—or at least, the closest interpretation we’ll get in 2017. But for all of its modern twists, The Lost Village still has plenty of wholesome, if imbalanced and a bit awkward, fun for the whole family—particularly the girls.

The often speculated about Smurfette (voiced by Demi Lovato) is the central character in The Lost Village. Smurfette is having a bit of an existential crisis, being not only the only girl in the village but also the only Smurf whose purpose is not literally right there in her name. Not finding the answers she needs among the mushroom houses of Smurf Village, she sets off on an adventure to find herself, with her friends Brawny (Joe Mangianello), Brainy (Danny Pudi) and Clumsy (Jack McBrayer) in tow. The intrepid blue adventurers find more than they bargained for, along with the obligatory encounter with nemesis Gargamel (Rainn Wilson).

The Lost Village is a pretty likable movie overall, and likely what someone could reasonably expect a Smurfs movie to be. The world they inhabit is certainly an impressive looking one, taking advantage of modern technology to create a beautifully rendered, colorful world with eye-popping effects even when things are at their most perilous (which, considering this is a kids’ movie, is never too perilous.) The obligatory celebrity voices are surprisingly good as well. Mangianello, Pudi and McBrayer are all perfectly cast and have fun with what are literally one-note roles. Lovato brings a natural likability to Smurfette, and actually gives the character some depth. Wilson may not be the same gravelly voiced Gargamel you remember, but he brings his A-game here, to the point where one wonders why he doesn’t play more animated villains (his only previous turn was in 2009’s underrated Monsters vs. Aliens.) Gargamel’s biggest adversary here is not the Smurfs, but his own scene-stealing sarcastic cat Azrael. And keep an eye (or ear) out for a pretty big star we haven’t heard much from lately.

Interestingly it's the more modern flourishes that are The Lost Village’s downfall. The filmmakers here got the basic Smurfs so accurately than the modern touches seem a bit shoehorned in. The obligatory pop song dance sequence that closes the film feels a bit awkward in the context of a Smurfs film, and leaves the otherwise sweet affair on a bit of a sour note. This along with the usual modern slang and pop culture references create occasional tonal problems that are a bit difficult to ignore.

When do we get to be R-rated Smurfs?

At the end of the day a Smurfs movie in 2017 is for parents wanting to share beloved nostalgia with their kids. But there’s not much here for a kid to dislike. If the target audience isn’t seeing Beauty and the Beast again this weekend, it could be a decent hit with families looking for something to do on a rainy spring weekend. Despite the slight awkwardness of attempting to modernize the classic characters, Smurfs: The Lost Village is wholesome, if slightly forgettable fun.

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-Mike Stec