Smurfs: The Lost Village took me back to my childhood

Sony Pictures

“La, la, la, la, la, la …” There was a time in the mid-80s when I was obsessed with singing a happy song and Smurfing my whole day along with those adorable blue creations by Peyo. My grandparents had recorded The Smurfs and the Magic Flute for me and I’d watch it almost on repeat (alternating with Disney’s Robin Hood, Mary Poppins and Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier – seriously, I used to reenact the fight for the Alamo with my stuffed animals and don’t even get me started as to how Gumby lost one of his arms).

Some of my fondest memories of my mom’s real dad revolve around us walking over to the Hardee’s next to his house where he would treat me to a kid’s meal. I’ll never forget the day when he took me and my two younger cousins and I was the envy of everyone when I plucked Smurfette out of my bag and they both had Hang Glider Smurf (who was actually pretty cool when I got him on a subsequent visit, but there was no way in hell I was going to trade the only girl Smurf for him with one of my annoying cousins … I was only 5 or 6 years old, but I could already tell she was coveted because she was special).

In the wondrous world of the Smurfs, there’s a Smurf for just about everything and each of their names reflects their primary personality trait (this makes them easily identifiable with children). There’s Brainy Smurf, Clumsy Smurf, Baker Smurf, Hefty Smurf, Vanity Smurf, Handy Smurf … but there’s only one girl Smurf known as Smurfette (until Sassette Smurf much later). Smurfette was actually molded from clay by the evil wizard Gargamel in a dastardly plot to locate the Smurfs Village and capture all of the Smurfs. However, Papa Smurf was able to magically transform her into the sweet Smurfette we all know and love today.

In Smurfs: The Lost Village, the animators at Sony Pictures finally set out to answer one of the biggest questions from the beloved franchise: what exactly is a Smurfette? Her name doesn’t convey anything about her personality or what she thinks about or feels. All it conveys is her sex. This troubles most of the Smurfs, especially Smurfette herself who begins to suffer from an identity crisis. Perhaps it’s from having all that blue testosterone surrounding her, but she feels a little lost and unsure of who she’s meant to be and how she fits into the village without any girl role models. Hmm … why does that sound more than a little familiar?

Smurfs: The Lost Village features an all-star cast of who’s who among the sitcom world, including Jack McBrayer, Rainn Wilson, Danny Pudi, Ellie Kemper, Ariel Winter, Joe Manganiello, Demi Lovato, Michelle Rodriguez, Mandy Patinkin and Julia Roberts. It was also a pleasant surprise to recognize legendary cartoon voice actor Frank Welker as Gargamel’s cat Azrael (sounding eerily similar to his Slimer from The Real Ghostbusters, which I’ve been binge-watching on Netflix). I thought the casting was excellent – Rainn Wilson’s voice is virtually unrecognizable as Gargamel (he sounds like a deliciously twisted Kevin Spacey).

The plot takes Smurfette, Brainy, Clumsy and Hefty on an epic quest to save a lost village of Smurfs from being captured by the evil Gargamel while also revealing Smurfette’s raison d’etre. It takes all four Smurfs out of their comfort zones because they’re forced to disobey Papa Smurf by entering the Forbidden Forest. I won’t reveal any spoilers about these long-lost Smurfs they discover, but it ended up being a nice addition for the franchise and one I hope to see more of in the future. Overall, it’s a fun journey for kids of all ages.

While I haven’t been the biggest fan of how the Smurfs have looked in their more modern forays (think 2011’s The Smurfs which featured them in awkward 3D computer animation), it was refreshing to see them go back to their roots in this movie’s spectacular animation. It manages to update their look while still hearkening back to their classic ’80s look just enough to please today’s kids and their parents who grew up watching the original. Watch for the scene in which Team Smurf first enters the Forbidden Forest and discovers the most colorful dragonflies species ever. It’s a dazzling rainbow of colors that you and your little ones are sure to enjoy. Also be sure to listen for the familiar strains of “Careless Whisper” by a saxophone-playing Smurf at the beginning.

The Smurfs: The Lost Village DVD/Blu-ray features one of the most interactive packages of bonus features I’ve ever seen. Sure, there are the usual deleted scenes and directory’s commentary, but there’s also “Kids at Heart! The Making of Smurfs: The Lost Village,” music videos, a Smurfs dance-along party, “lost” cast auditions, how-to videos for kids to learn how to draw some of their favorite Smurfs, a fun step-by-step guide for “Smurfifying Your Nails” and even a mini cooking segment featuring Baker Smurf (who sounds an awful lot like Gordon Ramsay). There are also two insightful segments with composer Christopher Lennertz about the making of the song “You Will Always Find Me in Your Heart” and the rest of the sounds in the movie (your kids may not really care about the music, but I thought it was a cool behind-the-scenes look at what goes into movie-making). Overall, my verdict is Smurfs: The Lost Village is definitely one to add to your cherished animated collection.

Sony Pictures

 

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