Smurfs: The Lost Village reminded me a little of Gnomeo and Juliet, the animated version of Shakespeare’s classic romantic masterpiece told with gnomes instead of idiotic Veronese as the main characters. The animation had a similar feel to it, although the soundtrack was its weak point which definitely wasn’t the case with the Elton John-scored Gnomeo and Juliet. Not co-incidentally, one feels, The Lost Village’s director is none other than Kelly Asbury, who, you guessed it, was also responsible for Gnomeo and Juliet.
The first of the three Smurf movies, an animation/live action hybrid (pass me the sick bucket – why did we ever think that those were a good idea?), actually grossed an impressive $500 million at the box office. The sequel didn’t exactly perform quite as well but Sony weren’t deterred. For this third outing, they returned to the fully animated style of the originals, which was a frankly excellent idea.
Starring Demi Lovato as Smurfette, Smurfs: The Lost Village follows the only female Smurf in the village and her three friends, Clumsy (Jack McBrayer), Hefty (Joe Manganiello) and Brainy (Danny Pudi). After Smurfette discovers the existence of a village of female Smurfs in the Forbidden Forest, she accidentally reveals its location to the evil (and somewhat incompetent) wizard, Gargamel, the Smurfs’ arch enemy. The movie then becomes a race against time as they try to reach the village before Gargamel.
It’s part comedy, part action/adventure epic, part coming-of-age as Smurfette tries to discover who she is and what her purpose might be along the way. For those of you who aren’t already fans of the Smurfs, you may have noticed that they all have names that describe their most prominent character traits. All of them except Smurfette. Her name, at least according to the rest of the village, doesn’t tell you a thing about her. And apparently the only way for a Smurf to know who they are is through their name – observation, it seems, is not enough. This is where the all-important moral of the story rears its not-so-ugly head: Smurfette cannot be defined by her name alone because she is complex and totally badass in her own way.
The movie was good overall but it didn’t start off so well. Papa Smurf’s narration is fine, if a bit clunky, but what really got me was the slight sexism and reliance on gender stereotypes that felt out of place in what should have been a wholly feminist film. But it turned out that it was less that the movie itself took that particular viewpoint but that Papa Smurf is just something of an unreliable narrator.
The worst part is that Smurfette’s girl-ness is indicated by the fact that she has long, blonde hair and wears a dress. Because girls look less feminine when they wear trousers? Given that the difference between the male and female Smurfs is window dressing at best, I suppose this kind of stereotyping does have its uses but it’s annoying nonetheless.
The animation in Smurfs: The Lost Village was gorgeous, especially the Forbidden Forest. Our first introduction to this new landscape and all it’s weird, wonderful and slightly dangerous creatures was very reminiscent of the scene in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, when Kowalski enters Newt’s briefcase for the first time. It was very old school Disney Alice in Wonderland but with glow-in-the-dark bunnies instead of Cheshire cats.
This wasn’t the only moment that seemed to reference other movies, including the obligatory “I’ve got a bad feeling about this!” in reference to the eponymous Star Wars quote that seems to pop up in a ridiculous number of contemporary animations (I first noticed it in Chicken Run, which has a startlingly large number of references to everyone’s favorite sci-fi franchise).
Predictable but still fun, this is very much a kids movie. Slick action sequences and comedy provides something for adults to enjoy, although I wouldn’t recommend seeing it without a kid in tow. The characters were appealing and their storylines easy to become invested in so the only real weak point was the slightly boring soundtrack. It delivers mixed messages about gender roles and stereotypes in general but the end really hammers home that people are complex and often undefinable, and that their role in society should be judged with that in mind.
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