This seems to be the week for the underdog movie. First, The Power Rangers Movie was surprisingly entertaining and now I’m reporting that Smurfs: the Lost Village is a solid little animated movie. Neither of these movies are masterpieces, but I feel the creative teams behind them really tried to make the best movie they could and it shows.
I should tell you guys about my history with the Smurfs. The previous live action hybrid films are two of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. They aren’t funny and the continual product placement left a bad taste in my mouth. You could say the bar for this new film was very low!
The biggest pro of Smurfs: the Lost Village is the stunning animation. That might sound crazy coming from a Smurfs movie, but I honestly thought the backgrounds and other visuals were really beautiful. There is a scene where they ride down a floating river that was full of colors and light that dazzled me. It is without a doubt the best animation Sony Animation has ever done.
Even the animation of the Smurfs looked really good especially when you compare them to the live action versions. They are smoother, brighter and more pleasant to look at. When the Smurfs from the Lost Village come into play those are also very nicely animated and designed. It’s amazing all they did with the color blue!
I also liked Rainn Wilson as Gargamel. He was the only celebrity who gave a memorable performance with the campy style needed for such a villain. In a way it is kind of refreshing to have a villain like Gargamel in a world of animated surprise villains. It’s nice to have one brewing potions and planning world domination for once! His interactions with his vulture and cat were also a lot of fun.
That brings me to some of the downsides of Smurfs: the Lost Village. Aside from Rainn, the rest of the celebrity voice casting was completely wasted and unnecessary. Some of the celebrities like Gordon Ramsey as Baker Smurf maybe had 2 lines. Julia Roberts gets top billing and she doesn’t appear for an hour into the movie! What a waste! Why not use voice talent and lower your budget so you can make riskier films? I will never understand it.
There are also some issues that are inherent in the franchise. Much like the 7 dwarfs in Snow White the Smurfs are known by their key skill or trait- Clumsy, Grumpy, Brainy etc. This makes for some pretty boring characters that don’t have much room to grow or move in the story because they can’t escape their label. The dwarfs were side characters so weren’t required to grow much but particularly the quad of Brainy, Clumsy, Smurfette and Hefty are the leads of the movie. They even have a Smurf who’s name is “Smurf who chews on the table”. Hmmm…
The other problem, which is inherent to the franchise is some of the odd moments of gender dynamics. Smurfette is the only female character until they meet a new village. This makes for some weird moments where things are considered masculine or feminine that made me squirm a bit. Granted I think 99% of kids this will go right over their heads but I noticed. Even the design of Smurfette is a little concerning with her high heels and blonde hair. Especially with how she becomes a literal Savior character it made me a little uncomfortable.
Some I am sure will complain this film is generic and predictable. So what? Not everything in the world has to be new and exciting. It moved along quickly enough and Gargamel was fun and the animation was gorgeous. That’s certainly enough to entertain me.
Another quick problem is I didn’t think any of the pop songs worked within the movie. In fact, they took me out of the movie. They were too modern for this fantastical world they’d created.
Smurf’s: the Lost Village would have been so easy to phone in and make it mediocre, so I appreciate the effort Sony Animation put into this film. In many ways it reminds me of Horton Hears a Who. Sure both movies have flaws but especially compared to their predecessors they are successful. I recommend giving Smurf’s the Lost Village a shot- maybe not a full price but a matinee ticket. You’ll be glad you did if only for the visuals alone.
Overall Grade- B
As far as content there is some tense sequences but the kids at my theater all seemed ok. If they could handle Trolls they should be fine with this.