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Friday, 13 April 2018

Movie Review: Smurfs: The Lost Village (2017)

Smurfs: The Lost Village
Cast: Demi Lovato, Rainn Wilson, Joe Manganiello, Mandy Patinkin, Michelle Rodriguez, Megan Trainor, Julia Roberts
Genre: 3D Computer Animated Fantasy Adventure Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $197 million

Plot: A mysterious map sets Smurfette & her friends, Brainy, Clumsy & Hefty on an exciting race through the Forbidden Forest, leading to the biggest secret in Smurf history

'A Movie That Is So Lost It Couldn't Find Its Way'

I was never a fan of The Smurfs cartoons when they aired in the 1980s on television. The theme song would grate on me after repeated listens -''la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la'', just urgh; after avoiding the first two movies based on their derisory reception and for being, well, bad, I gave this one a go, given some people have said how this is better than the other Smurfs films. For sure, The Lost Village tries to make an effort, in contrast to those travesties - but still, this was an unbelievably dull, bland offering that did little to turn things around for the series, insofar as animated movies go & it relies too much on pop songs to cater to audiences & not enough effort was put into creating a meaningful, engaging and engrossing film. 

Smurfette was created by an evil wizard named Gargamel out of clay and to spy on the other Smurfs and trick them by leading them to Gargamel's Caldron, only for Papa Smith to turn her to the good side. Smurfette tries to fit in with the other Smurfs, but she is unsure of her role and what she has to offer. 

The plot of The Lost Village completely fails to develop its characters: despite names such as Brainy, Papa Smurf, Hefty, Clumsy, Smurfette - names that could also be a play on the seven dwarves - and as such, irrespective of the cast names, the characters personalities fail to establish themselves throughout the duration of this movie, due to their almost pitiful absence of identity that isn't touched upon. 

It's baffling how seamlessly the art direction is in this movie- it looks so colourful, wonderful and the characters look just how as they should be; visually it's a treat. Yet the story itself is an utter chore that comes across as uninspired and lazy. I was also disappointed that though the feminist angle is nicely represented by the likes of Smurfette, SmurfMelody (Meghan Trainor), SmurfStorm (Michelle Rodriguez) & SmurfWillow (Julia Roberts), their character/story arcs are woefully brief & function more so as background characters. Having Brainy, Papa Smurf, Hefty, Clumsy, Smurfette just isn't enough. 

The usage of current pop music feels completely out of place - Effiel 64's ''Blue'' irritated the heck out of me when it came out in the 1990s, and it still irritates me today - and as such, the film should have omitted it. Some of the other voice acting I felt was barren, & didn't really suit the characters they portrayed; alas the actor for Gargamel here, Rainn Wilson just wasn't a match to the one in the 1980s cartoon series, Paul Winchell, who also happens to voice Dick Dastardly. It seemed he used his normal voice and it was boring to listen to. & though they had to recast actors for Papa Smurf & Clumsy, in my eyes and ears, it just never suited the characters that I'd envisaged. So with Gargamel and Papa Smurf especially, Rainn and Pantikin didn't work for me. But Demi Lovato did really good as Smurfette and by far, she made the biggest impression on me - and yet, I originally didn't tune into this film for her but for Julia Roberts. Roberts herself wasn't given much of a role to speak of (she appeared during like two-thirds of the movie) and she has more of a bit-part role. I was just as disappointed that with The Smurfs, given the other star support leads, Demi Lovato, singer Meghan Trainor, Michelle Rodriguez, this was a more well-known franchise, compared to Charlotte's Web and The Ant Bully for Julia Roberts to undertake - yet the conception, both in the movie and her bit-part role here did her no favours, at all. She and her meagre character said and did little of consequence  & in all honesty, I liked her turn in The Ant Bully far more than in The Smurfs and the attempts by the writers to throw in a rom-com- ish subplot of her character, SmurfWillow falling for Papa Smurf, because, -well, it is a role she plays most of the time in her other movies so why not-, feels awfully trite, tacked on and desperate.

As a film, but for the character designs, I don't feel the makers wanted to cater to those who grew up in that era of The Smurfs show. Whilst the reliance on celebrity star names to voice characters is something I don't have an issue with, it is only when they are not so effective as their characters that the movie fails to resonate and connect with audiences, especially those of an already existing I.P and franchise in The Smurfs. That and the story isn't compelling or enticing enough to hold one's interest. It definitely didn't hold mine and quite frankly, its execution just wasn't good enough. It bored my brains out and I couldn't wait for it to end. 

The progression with Smurfette's character was a good one to take, however, the same cannot be said for the rest of the film; kids and avid fanatics may find some enjoyment out of this, but with everyone else, there is just not enough here that is thoroughly worth it. 


Pros +

- The Smurf characters look far more authentic to their cartoon counterparts than the previous movies

- Tad better than the terrible Smurfs movie predecessors 

- Demi Lovato is the standout, by far 

Cons -

 - Didn't like the use of current pop songs, feels so out of place 

- Some of the voiceovers don't compare to those in the original cartoon 

- The story wasn't entertaining or appealing enough

- Everything else but for the visuals & despite Demi Lovato felt stale, it was just so bad

- Julia Roberts was wasted in a role, which was less sufficient & the SmurfWillow & Papa Smurf love storyline, like no

- Julia did it far better as Hova the ant in The Ant Bully than as a Blue Smurf

Final Verdict:

As mentioned this is a slight improvement over the last 2 Smurf movies, but that is scant consolation for what is truly an underwhelming and utterly bland offering, lacking in inventive ideas and relying too much on cliches and the overuse of pop songs irked me also. Plus it's yet another below mediocre non-Pixar/DreamWorks/Disney animated offering. 

This is so pandering, ponderous and overzealous, Smurfs The Lost Village turns out it is not that smurfing impressive. 


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