I figured it was the live-action that was the problem.
The Smurfs and The Smurfs 2 were, for the most part, rambunctious, asinine, lazily written child distractors, the cinematic equivalent of a big, bouncing blue ball. It bounces up and down, up and down, up and down, and eventually, something gets smashed or broken, but the kid is (seemingly) transfixed. But amongst the drivel, there were always shining little moments of promise and potential. They came near the top of the films, as we watched our CG Smurfs interact in their animated environment known as Smurf Village, away from their dreaded, pointless impending visit to the Big Apple. These segments were lively, engaging, inspired and, dare I say it, kinda fun. They were everything the resulting 80 minutes (and change) weren’t, a glimpse into what could’ve been if Sony Animation decided to cut their losses and stick with the animation.
That’s why I was initially eager to visit Smurfs: The Lost Village, the first fully-animated theatrical Smurfs movie that, thankfully, avoids anything involving our own world. Giving viewers a chance to watch Poyo’s original animated creation as it was intended (well, sorta), The Lost Village would let viewers see environments that were only hinted at, spend time with Smurfs we only got a glimpse of, be engulfed in a colorful (though mostly blue) world that was totally different from our muddled own, and more importantly, actually see Smurfs be Smurfs. It would give us the Smurfs movie we should’ve gotten from the get-go, all before uncreative influences decided to smurf everything up. If only that were ultimately the case.
Smurfs: The Lost Village, in a refreshing change of pace, is mostly centered around Smurfette (Demi Lovato), who’s the only female in the village. But that’s not the only reason why she’s different. Created by the evil Gargamel (Rain Wilson) as a means to trick the Smurfs into boiling in his cauldron, Smurfette was created from clay as a means to inflict evil and misery. But through the magic and kindhearted grace of Papa Smurf (Mandy Patinkin), Smurfette became a beautiful, loving Smurf just like every other blue-skinned citizen of Smurf Village.
Even though she’s welcomed by her male peers, though, Smurfette never quite fits in, and the rest of the village aren’t quite sure what her purpose should be. You see, the Smurfs are defined by single characteristics. They’re a lot like the seven dwarfs in that specific regard. They can be Farmer Smurf (Jeff Dunham), or Jokey Smurf (Gabriel Iglesias) or Baker Smurf (Gordon Ramsay) or Grouchy Smurf (Jake Johnson), but they each fill their individual purpose. Smurfette, however, is lost.
But with Gargamel in the midst of his next nefarious scheme, such smurf-searching will need to wait. You see, in addition to rounding up the lowly, happy-go-lucky smurfs inside Smurf Village, Gargamel discovers a new, unfound village which seemingly holds even more Smurfs, which the no-good wizard also hopes to find in order to capture those Smurfs for his nasty misgivings. But if there is, indeed, a new village filled with Smurfs, Smurfette, alongside her companions Brainy Smurf (Danny Pudi), Hefty Smurf (Joe Manganiello) and Clumsy Smurf (Jack McBrayer), will do everything they can to discover it first. And with that, our plucky Smurfs set off on a quest to discover The Lost Village, which potentially holds a revelation that’ll change Smurfette forever.
What’s most bothersome about Smurfs: The Lost Village is how often it’s unwilling to own up to its creativity. With a premise that welcomes fantastical landscapes and wondrous discoveries, this newest Smurfs movie is ultimately more content with becoming a second-rate The Croods than being an exciting, involving new family adventure film. Even with its dazzling visuals and its stunning art direction, Smurfs: The Lost Village is consistently boggled down by its (still) lazy writing and its entirely formulaic plot structure. Even for the kiddos in the audience, most of the bathroom gags fall flat, and there’s only minimal effort from the filmmakers to expand the franchise into new and exciting territory.
The most interesting aspect of Smurfs: The Lost Village is its surprising and intriguing feminist angle. Written by two women, Stacey Harman and Pamela Ribon, and introducing a few new female characters, including SmurfBlossom (Ellie Kemper), SmurfLily (Ariel Winter), SmurfMelody (Meghan Trainor), SmurfStorm (Michelle Rodriguez) and SmurfWillow (Julia Roberts), Smurf: The Lost Village has the foundation for an inviting and exciting new step for the property, but the new characters only get a bit of time to introduce themselves and they’re often in the background of most of their scenes.
Perhaps The Smurfs property only works on the page and in short form? If these movies are a proper indication, at least. Though if the writing is truly as hack and misguided as it often is in these films, surely there’s a chance that they can actually do The Smurfs brand justice? Even though Smurfs: The Lost Village has the potential to be the first Smurf movie to truly live up to Poyo’s beloved creation, it unfortunately drops the big blue ball again. Frantic, pandering, overzealous and too constricted for its own good, this new Smurfs movie, ahem, smurfs.
And yes, they do play Eiffel 65’s “I’m Blue (Da Ba Dee Da Ba Die),” in case you were wondering.
Despite its stunning backdrops and inspired new designs, Smurfs: The Lost Village is a smurfing waste of time. The only thing bluer than the main characters are the poor saps who pay to see this manic drivel.