Smurfs: The Lost Village
Gone are the days of Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria and – mystery of mysteries – Brendan Gleeson making asses of themselves among CGI Smurfs that look like bad Dobby the House Elf knock-offs.
Harkening back to its purely animated TV series roots, a means by which respectable actors don’t have to show their faces, Smurfs: The Lost Village is a vast improvement over the two live-action versions but remains far from quality programming.
Blessed with eye-pleasing animation courtesy of Sony’s deep pockets, the film establishes itself as different still with the framing device of a documentary crew making a film about Smurfette (voiced by Demi Lovato).
The unseen chroniclers’ central query is that, while basic nomenclature rules make it evident what defines Smurfette's menfolk villagers like Grouchy, Vanity and Nosey, the meaning of her “ette” remains elusive.
Video evidence of her trying hard to find her specialty but proving a jack of no trades is cringeworthy enough, though background research unearths the even more painful truth that, since Smurfette was nefariously created by the evil wizard Gargamel (Rainn Wilson) from a lump of clay and transformed into her current bubbly self by Papa Smurf (Mandy Patinkin), she’s not technically a real Smurf.
Despite Smurfs being weird enough entities and creative, postmodern takes on established brands (e.g. The Lego Batman Movie) being all the rage, director Kelly Asbury and his writing team of Stacey Harman and Pamela Ribon evidently strand the non-fiction filmmaking team back in Smurf Village and replace it with a lame, traditional crew that cements Smurfs: The Lost Village's mediocrity.
The derivative narrative replacements capture Smurfette and tagalongs Hefty (Joe Manganiello), Brainy (Danny Pudi) and Clumsy (Jack McBrayer, who knows how to liven up a room with his distinctive pipes) on a quest to find the long-rumored titular settlement before Gargamel, his pet vulture Monty and cat assistant Azrael – who works much better not as a flesh-and-blood feline – get there first.
Brainy’s ladybug assistant Snappy Bug (who sounds an awful lot like BB-8), plus glowing, rideable rabbit Bucky and various unusual scenery reminiscent of yet far superior to sights in Trolls liven up the ho-hum trip, which nonetheless yields a few delightfully immature all-ages laughs when it’s not shooting for the lowest common infantile denominator.
Smurfs: The Lost Village wouldn’t be much of a kids’ movie if the explorers didn’t reach their destination, but since the film’s trailers miraculously don’t reveal what they find upon arrival, it’s only fair that it goes unmentioned here.
Viewers young and old will, however, be pleased to learn that a certain thematically appropriate Eiffel 65 song receives the montage treatment, but additional perks are few and far between.
Grade: C-minus. Rated PG. Playing at AMC Classic, Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark
(Photo: Sony Pictures)