In the first few minutes of the animated film “Smurfs: The Lost Village,” I couldn’t help but wonder if this was going to be a terribly long version of the 1980s TV cartoon series.
Fortunately, “Lost Village” found its own path and became a sweet story about girl power.
If you’re not familiar with the characters, the tiny blue Smurfs live in a remote village that’s hidden from their nemesis, the evil Gargamel (Rainn Wilson). Led by Papa Smurf (Mandy Patinkin), the blue boys are aptly named by their characteristics, a la “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” So, there is a Clumsy Smurf (Jack McBrayer), a Hefty Smurf (Joe Manganiello) and a Brainy Smurf (Danny Pudi). This is annoyingly spelled out in the beginning of the film, in case you don’t get the point that Nosey Smurf (director Kelly Asbury) is the creepy one.
One Smurf is different from the rest — the lone female of the bunch named Smurfette (Demi Lovato). Her backstory is that she was actually created by Gargamel from blue clay to infiltrate the Smurfs and lead him to their secret home. But Gargamel’s dastardly plot was upended by Papa Smurf, who turned Smurfette into a “real Smurf.” (This was spelled out in the TV series, so there are no spoilers here for true fans.)
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“The Lost Village” deals with Smurfette’s journey to find out what kind of Smurf she really is. It should be called “Smurfette’s Search for the Lost Village.” When Smurfette and her closest pals Brainy, Clumsy and Hefty find a map to a “Lost Village” in the Forbidden Forest, it leads to the discovery of one of the biggest secrets in Smurfdom. Meanwhile, Gargamel tries to snatch them at every move.
The first two “Smurf” films in this franchise, in 2011 and 2013, tried to meld the human and Smurf worlds using live-action and computer-generated animation with some success. This new film stays closer to the original comic book series created by Belgian cartoonist Peyo in the late 1950s. The film is dedicated to Peyo’s wife, Nine, who is attributed with choosing the hue of blue for the Smurfs.
It’s fitting, then, that the film takes the simple premise of finding one’s inner beauty and turns it into a loving tribute to female empowerment.
Smurfs: The Lost Village
☆☆☆ out of 5
Cast: Demi Lovato, Rainn Wilson, Joe Manganiello, Mandy Patinkin, Jack McBrayer.
Director: Kelly Asbury.
Running time: 1:31.
Rated: PG, for mild action and rude humor.