The Austin Chronicle

Smurfs: The Lost Village

Rated PG, 89 min. Directed by Kelly Asbury. Voices by Demi Lovato, Ariel Winter, Joe Manganiello, Michelle Rodriguez, Julia Roberts, Mandy Patinkin, Rainn Wilson, Jack McBrayer, Danny Pudi.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., April 7, 2017

A strictly-for-the-kiddies animated reboot of the seemingly ancient Smurf brand, The Lost Village is so tame it hardly merits a PG rating. Whereas most movies aimed at this particular demographic tend to throw mom and dad a bone in the form of a topical gag or a sly pop-culture joke, this is pure pre-teen schlock minus the wacky intellectual heft of, say, SpongeBob SquarePants or the sheer preschool weirdness of The Teletubbies (remember them?). It’s also hamstrung by a confusing moral center which finds Smurfette (Lovato), the Smurfiverse’s token female, setting out on a perilous quest to discover her purpose in life. As everyone under the age of 10 already knows, Smurfette isn’t a Smurf at all. She’s a golem created out of clay by the evil wizard Gargamel (Wilson) to subvert and destroy Papa Smurf’s patriarchal, mushroom-based society. With the passing of time and merchandise, however, the blue bombshell left her original sin origin story and sashayed into the hearts and minds of the all-male Smurf coterie.

All’s well that ends well, but not really, because now the purposeless protagonist has to track down a mysterious being she briefly glimpsed in the Forbidden Forest. Determinedly setting out on her own – except for the four clownish man-Smurfs who tag along to make sure nothing bad happens to their blond goddess – she evades Gargamel’s clutches and ventures off into unknown territory with predictable results. This is sham feminism in the first degree no matter how colorful the animator’s palette or how cool fire-breathing dragonflies are in 3-D.

Strangely, the script for The Lost Village was penned by a pair of women – Stacey Harman and Pamela Ribon – the latter of whom co-wrote Moana, the best girl power identity quest in recent memory. The fact is, for those of us over 10 years old, Smurfs, like Peeps, are best viewed revolving in molten agony inside your microwave, and when it comes to finding your special purpose in life, nothing will ever top Steve Martin’s Navin R. Johnson in The Jerk.

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