Film: Smurfs: The Lost Village
Cast: (voiced by) Demi Lovato, Rainn Wilson, Danny Pudi, Joe Manganiello, Mandy Patinkin, Julia Roberts, Jack McBrayer
Director: Kelly Asbury
What’s not to like about this 3D animated, lavishly limned new chapter in the saga of the Smurfs, those blue-skinned, white capped adorables (created by Belgian cartoonist Pierre Culliford) who won the hearts of young and old when they first popped up on the widescreen? This time around, a mysterious map propels the quartet comprising Smurfette (voiced by Demi Lovato) and her male best buddies Brainy, Clumsy and Hefty on a dangerous quest through a Forbidden Forest populated by wondrous creatures, great and small, towards the titular village.
On the run from gigantic flowers and fireflies, the Smurfs finds, that it is actually a race against time, because hot on their heels is the villainous wizard Gargamel (Rainn Wilson) who resembles a Franciscan friar! In the secret settlement of Amazonian Smurf women, the quartet is entertained with pastimes like Tai chi and archery and rides on fire-snorting dragonflies who reminded your reviewer of the creatures from Game of Thrones. Brainy, Hefty and Clumsy (voiced by Pudi, Manganiello and McBrayer) live up to their names when a vulture abducts Smurfette to the lair of the evil Gargamel who wants to capture the rest of the Smurfs and drain them of their powerful “essence”. He even demands to be called Papa when their real Papa (Mandy Patinkin of Homeland fame) worries himself sick back home.
As it happens, Gargamel himself finds his life in danger on a tumultuous river and the Smurfs quartet decides to save him. After all, as Smurfette puts it, “We’re Smurfs, we do the right thing.” Double-crossing Gargamel shows his true colours when he promptly betrays them and tries to brainwash Smurfette with some spiel about origins, predestination and fate.
Viewers will remember Smurfette is his creation (from a lump of clay like the Biblical Adam) and therefore evil like your creator, Gargamel tells her, although the Smurfs (and viewers) have experienced a good and kind Smurfette, thanks to Papa Smurf who made her their steadfast ally. Does she succumb to Gargamel? I say nurture wins over nature while screenwriters Stacey Harman and Pamela Ribon emphasize ennobling messages about caring, doing your best, teamwork and being there for your loved ones.