Our favourite little blue creatures are back on the big screen, but it’s starting to wear a little thin the third time around.
Unlike the previous Smurf films, Smurfs: The Lost Village focuses on the most unique of these blue critters; the only female smurf, aptly named Smurfette (voiced by Julia Roberts). In a village filled with male Smurfs who each have a defining trait, Smurfette begins to feel out of place. Unlike her fellow villagers, Smurfette was created from a piece of clay by the evil wizard Gargamel (voiced by Rainn Wilson) and so she lacks a singular special skill. Naturally, this leads her on a journey to discover her identity. Throw in the possibility of other Smurfs existing in a place unknown and you can see exactly where this story is going…
What’s truly great about The Lost Village is the smooth 3D animation. Everything flows seamlessly, but it’s the large colourful displays during the action set pieces that shine the most. The scene where the Smurfs encounter a group of dragonflies is particularly noteworthy; each creature has been meticulously designed with unique colour traits. As a childhood fan of these characters, I can confidently say that the Smurfs translate well from their original hand drawn cartoon to CGI animation… but sadly, this is where the good stuff ends.
While I enjoyed the focus on Smurfette’s character arc, it felt as though the story lost (pun intended) it’s meaning along the way. What began as an interesting decision to tackle identity and one’s purpose in life, slowly shifted to basic storytelling: a village is found, Gargamel plans to capture the village, Smurfette and her friends must stop him… and that’s pretty much it.
Not only do you know how it’s all going to end, but the journey along the way is far too unoriginal to be even remotely engaging. In this sense it reminds me of the new Power Rangers, but where The Lost Village outshines that particular mess is in its character dynamics. There’s some well-crafted interactions between Smurfette, Clumsy, Brainy and Hefty that have hilarious outcomes. It’s just a shame that the relationships between these characters lose any sense of depth against a plot that doesn’t lend itself to exploring these little personalities.
There are reasons why we ultimately love children’s films. It’s because they’re not just films for children. We can still get the same feelings watching The Lion King now as we did 20 years or so ago. It’s why we’ll pay money again to see a live-action imagining of an animated film we’ve loved for decades. This is where The Lost Village is lacking. Parents, take your kids to see The LEGO Batman Movie instead. They’ll enjoy it. You’ll enjoy it. It’s a much better result for all.
Smurfs: The Lost Village is available in Australian cinemas from March 30
Image courtesy of Sony Pictures