The lesson with movies based on classic cartoons is how even if the first movie succeeds at the box office, its sequel always makes less than the original. This happened with “The Flintstones,” “Scooby Doo,” “Garfield,” “The Smurfs,” and more recently “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” But in order to help keep the cartoon spirit alive, they would have to make an animated reboot, and that is what “Smurfs: the Lost Village” just did.
I attended a special 4:30 screening of the movie a few weeks ago, and I needed time to think about my overall feelings towards this movie. I’ve come to terms with the fact that in order for it to be a perfect Smurfs movie, it has to be respectful to the cartoons. Not just the animation, but for the characters, dialogue, humor, and narrative. It promises you some cute Smurfs, but it doesn’t promise anything else.
The drawing and animation is more respectful to the cartoons than the live action Neil Patrick Harris movies. The eyes are close to each other, and Gargamel’s evil cat Azrael looks like Azrael and not a live action CGI cat. The negative side of that is how its quality often looks too bright and generic for me to fully enjoy it. Apparently, the trailers make it look better than the actual movie, and that leaves me feeling (dare I say it) blue.
The story involves Smurfette (voiced by Demi Lovato, sounding sometimes like Kelly Ripa, instead of Lucille Bliss), who, if fans recall, was created by the evil wizard Gargamel (voiced by Rainn Wilson sounding a bit light compared to Paul Winchell) to capture the Smurfs, and then Papa Smurf (voiced by Mandy Patinkin) made her into the cute, blonde Smurfette we know and love. Against Papa’s wishes, she, Hefty (voiced by Joe Manganiello, charming as he can be), Brainy (voiced by Danny Pudi), and Clumsy (voiced by Jack McBrayer) embark on a mission to find a lost village, before Gargamel does. En route, and this ends up being too much, they encounter fire-breathing dragonflies, Smurf-eating flowers, glow-in-the-dark bunnies, and Gargamel’s cuckoo bird, who looks totally annoying.
The ads and internet reports spoil the fact that they’re all Smurfettes, and they consist of the leader Smurfwillow (voiced by Julia Roberts), the tough-as-nails Smurfstorm (voiced by Michelle Rodriguez), and the energetic Smurfblossom (voiced by Ellie Kemper from “The Office”). Out of all of them, I really enjoyed Smurfwillow, because she’s cute, sassy, and Roberts does a very good job of voicing her. But the movie is so short, it only relies on her one-liners, and fails to treat the Smurfette village like “Avatar” for tots. And once Gargamel shows up, the rest ends up like a regular Smurfs cartoon.
“Smurfs: The Lost Village” may be fun for kids, but for me, it was too eye candy. Sure, the animators kept the original designs, unlike the live action movies, but if the filmmakers (including the otherwise talented Kelly Asbury of “Shrek 2” and “Gnomeo and Juliet”) wanted it to be respectful to the cartoons, they should have done a lot of things. They should have added jokes that would appease adults, too, they should have cared more about Papa Smurf’s potions, instead of just him being an overprotective parent, they should have at least had hand drawn Smurfs in the end credits, and I may have forgotten about this during my viewing experience, but I think they barely said “Smurf” in their normal sentences. On the cartoons from the 1980s, they would say things like “AbsoSmurfly” or “Wondersmurf,” which was cute, but in the movie, their dialogue has to appease to the modern era. Sorry to Smurf up your day.