There is nothing greater for a movie studio these days than to hit on a popular intellectual property (‘IP’) or franchise. Something like Star Wars, Harry Potter, or Marvel comics, is so appealing because not only do they make money, almost regardless of film quality, but they are so low risk in planning, budgeting, and execution. This is why you see studios desperately trying to find new IPs that they can make into a success, and bringing back old franchises in hopes of leaning on nostalgia and creating new fans. This need for IP has proven to be a blessing and a curse for the latest Smurfs film, Smurfs: the Lost Village. Its strengths are very impressive but, for most audience members, they will be lost on the weaknesses of the franchise itself.
Smurfs: The Lost Village is directed by Kelly Asbury and, unlike its 2 predecessors, is a wholly animated film. Here the action is focused on Smurfette, who is feeling ostracized from her fellow smurfs due to her being the only female and being the only one created by Gargamel. Through various contrivances she, Hefty, Clumsy, and Brainy end up on an adventure to find a lost Smurf village and warn them about Gargamel.
The biggest positive of Smurfs: the Lost Village is how beautiful it is. I definitely think it is the best looking animated film Sony Animation has given us. The world of the Magic Forest was stunning and surprising, with a river that defies gravity and flowers with eyeballs. The colors and the movement were amazing. I didn’t see it in 3D but can only imagine how immersive it would feel. I think most Rotoscopers readers get more out of beautiful animation than the typical moviegoer so watching Smurfs: the Lost Village is worthwhile for that reason alone!
I’m in the minority, it seems, on this one but I also loved Rainn Wilson as Gargamel. I’m frankly a little tired of the surprise villain and it was refreshing to see an old fashioned villain brewing potions and planning to take over the world. I thought it hit just the right note of duplicitousness to be a lot of fun.
There is also some heart to the movie which worked for me. It gets a little over-the-top with a Savior metaphor but there is still real loss, tension, and an attempt to communicate and understand ostracized characters.
There are problems with Smurfs: the Lost Village, however, and most of them get back to what I was saying about IPs. Most of my issues are inherent to Smurfs and I’m not sure what the creators could have done to make the situation any better.
The first problem is in Smurf Village everyone is known for one attribute alone. It is kind of like the 7 Dwarfs except they aren’t the leads of their movie. Here we are expected to feel invested in characters that are defined by one thing: Clumsy, Grumpy, Brainy, etc. This makes it difficult for characters to grow beyond their attribute because if they did their name would no longer make sense. It’s kind of like if you called someone Big Tom and they lost weight. All of a sudden, their name doesn’t fit. They go very specific with these traits, also. There is even one character whose name is ‘Smurf Who Eats a Table.’
My other problem with Smurfs: the Lost Village is also inherent to the franchise. Smurfette is the only female and so, from the beginning, there is an odd gender dynamic. Things that were deemed masculine and feminine at times made me a little uncomfortable as they reinforced stereotypes. Then later when we meet the women of the Lost Village there was something kind of leering about ‘look at these females and how they live’ which bothered me. It’s not like girl power is shoved in your face but there was just something about it that rubbed me the wrong way.
But honestly kids aren’t going to notice stuff like that. It’s just me being a crabby adult! Maybe my name would be Crabby Smurf! I also thought, aside from Rainn Wilson, the celebrity voice cast was a complete waste of money and the pop music was very out of place. It should have been something more mystical and magical to fit the fantasy world; instead, we got Meghan Trainor songs.
All that said, most kids will have a lot of fun with the adventure and humor of the story in Smurfs: the Lost Village. It really can be very charming and for the adults you have all the pretty pictures. I mean seriously it was so beautiful…
Did you see Smurfs: the Lost Village? If so, what did you think of it, and what is your favorite part of the Smurfs franchise?
Edited by: Kajsa Rain Forden