‘Smurfs: The Lost Village’
Director: Kelly Ashbury
Voices of: Demi Lovato, Rainn Wilson
2 (out of 5) Globes
You skipped the other “Smurfs” movies. They had real people in them — handsomely paid actors like Neil Patrick Harris hobnobbing with little blue CGI whatzits. Besides, you’re a grown human. You didn’t feel particularly compelled to play completist before seeing the new one. After all, “The Lost Village” is a reboot and, unlike the previous two, it has no real people in it. It’s all a toon, which is how the franchise should have rolled from the start, if it ever had to roll at all. You do feel bad they recast everyone, even Hank Azaria, who actually dressed up embarrassingly/endearingly as evil Gargamel. He’s a voicework veteran! Re-hire him! Still, maybe this won’t be so bad?
And it isn’t. All things considered, it’s a slightly better than average episode of the old show, only three times as long. Or so you assume. The show hasn’t stuck with you, not the way the more melancholic “Peanuts” has. You don’t even remember the Smurfs’ names. When you hear “Clumsy Smurf,” “Brainy Smurf” and “Hefty Smurf” (“Hefty”?!?!) uttered aloud, they don’t sound familiar, not even faintly. You do remember Smurfette, but probably because she was the only girl among the sausage party of Smurf-testosterone. That seems troubling, now that you think about it. A Belgian created the Smurfs; are Belgians really as Cro-Magnon as Americans?
You manage a smile when “The Lost Village” actually addresses the gender issue. The story is a rollicking, action-packed adventure where our heroes try to find an Edenic oasis of other Smurfs, who turn out to be all female. (You recognize Julia Roberts’ voice as their leader, then lament that this is probably her highest profile gig in ages. Show business blows.) But the movie does little with this progressive angle, and you worry that today’s clickbait writers may make too much of it — call this one “the Feminist Smurfs movie” or something.
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But this isn’t a movie made for people who click on articles on Facebook. It was made for kids, very young ones, and the giddy tykes around you giggle, almost at random — as though the mere sight of blue anti-meanies was joy-making in and of itself. You feel a little bad for the writers and animators, who clearly put in some hard work. There are weirdo forest creatures and psychedelic colors, and the cat Azrael is a charmer. But they didn’t work hard enough to ensure the kids watching it wouldn’t mostly forget it, as you mostly forgot the show.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge