Smurfs: The Lost Village Voices of Demi Lovato, Danny Pudi, Jack McBrayer. Directed by Kelly Asbury. Rated PG. Opens Friday citywide.
After two dismal (yet successful) live-action/CGI hybrid movies, the Smurfs have returned to their fully animated roots for Smurfs: The Lost Village. The little blue forest-dwelling creatures have always been some degree of irritating, and the two previous movies, in which the Smurfs invaded the “real” world and interacted with humans, were particularly obnoxious, full of blatant product placement and crass humor. Lost Village is slightly less annoying, which marks an improvement for the Smurfs, but it’s also much less ambitious, and it comes off more like the extended pilot for a new Smurfs TV series than a full-fledged theatrical feature.
The storyline introduces a whole group of new merchandising-ready Smurfs when Smurfette (voiced by Demi Lovato), previously the only female Smurf, discovers a hidden village of Smurf ladies. Smurfs of all genders are targeted, as always, by the evil wizard Gargamel (Rainn Wilson), who wants to drain their magical essence for his nefarious purposes. Lots of slapstick humor and lessons about tolerance ensue, but there’s not nearly enough story here for 90 minutes, and the animation is functional and uninspired. The celebrity voice performances (including Danny Pudi, Jack McBrayer, Mandy Patinkin and, uh, Julia Roberts) are rote, all loud and cutesy to match the brightly colored visuals and the obvious jokes. Little kids will probably laugh. Parents will count down the minutes until it’s over.