After a mixed bag of live-action/CG hybrid films – the first a very lucrative effort, the second less so – Sony Pictures Animation has gone fully animated for the latest Smurfs film, also entirely dropping its cast and real world-setting. A soft reboot of the Smurfs universe is apparently something that happens in the world today and so it is that The Lost Village aims to hoover up some pre-Easter holiday cash from family audiences. The result is a passable hour-and-a-half that will keep the little ones amused – which, at the end of the day, is its purpose.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the film is its take on female empowerment, an animated film making a rare play primarily for the younger girls in the audience. The story focuses on Smurfette (Demi Levato) who is struggling to find her place in a society dominated by male characters who are each defined by one specific characterisrtic. Through the film she discovers other female Smurfs but also learns that she doesn’t have to be defined by one thing. It’s a pretty heady idea for a film of this kind and though the film around it is nothing more than average, this idea is well-handled throughout and alongside the admittedly far superior Moana, makes for an interesting recent double of films devoted to telling girls they can be what they want, not what society decides they should be.
It is a shame, though an unsurprising one, that the film’s other aspects aren’t as successful. Particularly disappointing is its look, with nothing really being done visually to make things feel as exciting as they should be. This is a world full of plantlife, creatures and raging rivers but it all looks rather drab. The insistence on the male characters only having oine defining trait also leads to characters who are all a little boring, their jokes becoming stale pretty quickly.
Jack McBrayer and Joe Magianello are both rather endearing as Clumsy and Hefty Smurf and Levato is appropriately spunky as Smurfette but Julia Roberts and Mandy Patinkin both sound pretty lifeless in the older Smurf roles and Rainn Wilson pales in comparison as Gargamel to the-live action cartoon performance of Hank Azaria in the two previous efforts.
As a parent, this did the job perfectly well, the message of the film seeming to work on the children in the audience and the comedic antics created enough laughs. It is nothing that anyone without children ever needs to concern themselves with however there is perhaps slightly more of interest than initially expected.