This seems to be the week for the underdog movie. First, The Power Rangers Movie was surprisingly entertaining and now I’m reporting that Smurfs: the Lost Village is a solid little animated movie. Neither of these movies are masterpieces, but I feel the creative teams behind them really tried to make the best movie they could and it shows.
I should tell you guys about my history with the Smurfs. The previous live action hybrid films are two of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. They aren’t funny and the continual product placement left a bad taste in my mouth. You could say the bar for this new film was very low!
The biggest pro of Smurfs: the Lost Village is the stunning animation. That might sound crazy coming from a Smurfs movie, but I honestly thought the backgrounds and other visuals were really beautiful. There is a scene where they ride down a floating river that was full of colors and light that dazzled me. It is without a doubt the best animation Sony Animation has ever done.
Even the animation of the Smurfs looked really good especially when you compare them to the live action versions. They are smoother, brighter and more pleasant to look at. When the Smurfs from the Lost Village come into play those are also very nicely animated and designed. It’s amazing all they did with the color blue!
I also liked Rainn Wilson as Gargamel. He was the only celebrity who gave a memorable performance with the campy style needed for such a villain. In a way it is kind of refreshing to have a villain like Gargamel in a world of animated surprise villains. It’s nice to have one brewing potions and planning world domination for once! His interactions with his vulture and cat were also a lot of fun.
That brings me to some of the downsides of Smurfs: the Lost Village. Aside from Rainn, the rest of the celebrity voice casting was completely wasted and unnecessary. Some of the celebrities like Gordon Ramsey as Baker Smurf maybe had 2 lines. Julia Roberts gets top billing and she doesn’t appear for an hour into the movie! What a waste! Why not use voice talent and lower your budget so you can make riskier films? I will never understand it.
There are also some issues that are inherent in the franchise. Much like the 7 dwarfs in Snow White the Smurfs are known by their key skill or trait- Clumsy, Grumpy, Brainy etc. This makes for some pretty boring characters that don’t have much room to grow or move in the story because they can’t escape their label. The dwarfs were side characters so weren’t required to grow much but particularly the quad of Brainy, Clumsy, Smurfette and Hefty are the leads of the movie. They even have a Smurf who’s name is “Smurf who chews on the table”. Hmmm…
The other problem, which is inherent to the franchise is some of the odd moments of gender dynamics. Smurfette is the only female character until they meet a new village. This makes for some weird moments where things are considered masculine or feminine that made me squirm a bit. Granted I think 99% of kids this will go right over their heads but I noticed. Even the design of Smurfette is a little concerning with her high heels and blonde hair. Especially with how she becomes a literal Savior character it made me a little uncomfortable.
Some I am sure will complain this film is generic and predictable. So what? Not everything in the world has to be new and exciting. It moved along quickly enough and Gargamel was fun and the animation was gorgeous. That’s certainly enough to entertain me.
Another quick problem is I didn’t think any of the pop songs worked within the movie. In fact, they took me out of the movie. They were too modern for this fantastical world they’d created.
Smurf’s: the Lost Village would have been so easy to phone in and make it mediocre, so I appreciate the effort Sony Animation put into this film. In many ways it reminds me of Horton Hears a Who. Sure both movies have flaws but especially compared to their predecessors they are successful. I recommend giving Smurf’s the Lost Village a shot- maybe not a full price but a matinee ticket. You’ll be glad you did if only for the visuals alone.
Overall Grade- B
As far as content there is some tense sequences but the kids at my theater all seemed ok. If they could handle Trolls they should be fine with this.
People have asked me so here goes- the worst movies I’ve ever seen. You may enjoy these movies. That’s awesome. I’m sincerely glad someone got something out of them. This is just me and my reaction, so please don’t be offended.
1. Drop Dead Gorgeous-
There are 2 movies I have walked out of in my life. Drop Dead Gorgeous was the first. It was so hateful and mean spirited all in the guise of a comedy I couldn’t take it any more and with about 20 minutes left I went into the lobby of the theater (on a date no less) and cried my eyes out.
It’s a mockumentary about beauty pageants that has one girl after another blown up, shot, murdered, burned and attacked. A character mimics the crucifixion, a girl becomes deaf for laughs, a near dead anorexic girl is wheeled out in a wheelchair with an IV, the mentally ill are mocked, all the girls get food poisoning with its accompanying effects. It’s gross, dark, cold and hateful so much so that 15 years after I saw it I still remember it far too vividly.
Meet the second movie I’ve walked out on. One of the horrible Saturday Night Live skits turned into a feature length movie with some of the most annoying characters ever put on screen. But what made this movie especially upsetting was a scene where Mary Catherine prays and see’s Jesus who is then mocked and made to look silly as part of an extended joke. I’m sorry but NO! You do not go there. Clearly nothing is sacred in the movies and that crossed a big line for me and I was done. This is the movie that convinced me I couldn’t just wing it at the movies but had to research content, quality and everything else before going to the theater (even the dollar theater!).
3. Last Airbender-
When people claim Fantasia is boring I want to ask them if they have ever seen The Last Airbender? It’s Shyamalan at his Shyamalanalist and holy cow is it BORING! I’m told the series is amazing and I mean to watch it someday but this movie is nothing but long segments of exposition followed by pan shots and the most boring fights ever filmed accompanied with terrible CG and special effects. It looks like a toddler yoga class and the slow motion and the story and acting and all the contemplative pauses when nothing interesting has been said makes you want to will yourself to sleep because your dreams will be much better than this movie. Kill me now.
4. Pearl Harbor-
Picking the worst Michael Bay movie is tough but Pearl Harbor will always get the edge because it is about real people, real heroes who deserved better. The historical details are lazy, dialogue awful, women dopey, romance worse than a bad soap opera, and explosions that dehumanize war more than the actual war. Everything is a caricature. Every line is predictable and stupid and been said in a million other movies. It feels like it was written by a Middle School drama club and the acting isn’t any better. It sucks.
This movie has the potential to be great. You have artistic filmmaker Terry Gilliam, cool visual look, interesting premise and 2 solid leading men in Heath Ledger and Matt Damon. Unfortunately that potential was never met. The story can’t decide whether it is a comedy or horror movie and the tone switches all over the place. The female character doesn’t make sense and the story is muddled. Are they swindlers? Where does the magic come from? Only bad magic is shown and why aren’t more of the Grimm characters shown? It doesn’t make any sense and my brain hurts thinking about it.
Let’s just say there is a scene in this movie where a horse swallows a little girl and you can see said girl wiggling around the extended bowels of the horse. That scene alone makes this on my list. It’s just so unpleasant and confusing.
This may be my most controversial choice but Contact was the first movie I saw in the theaters that I walked away hating. It’s about a woman who finds a portal that will lead to aliens if she can build a satellite type machine. Sounds like an interesting premise but at 2.5 hours it drags and becomes very preachy.
I despise the way religious characters are treated in this film. Matthew McConaughey plays a minister who is painted as condescending and foolish. But it doesn’t stop there. That could actually be subtle. Religion is the villain that literally tries to destroy science and its progress. And another movie where the religious characters are the most judgmental and uncharitable. What a cliché.
7. The Smurfs-
You could say I am being too hard on poor kids movie The Smurfs. I disagree. I think I should be HARDER on The Smurfs because it is a kids movie. Kids have a limited time period to mold their intellect, creativity and personality and lazy crap like The Smurfs is wrong. Yep, it pisses me off.
The thing that makes Smurfs so particularly disgraceful is the constant product placement. I am aware all movies have product placement these days but most of the time it is a car being driven or a phone being used. That’s more subtle. Not here. We have many scenes of Smurfs using Sony products, next to Sony billboards, on top of Sony laptops. I would bet no longer than a minute goes by without a Sony advertisement somewhere in the shot. They should be ashamed of themselves.
And even worse the story is stupid. The laughs are moronic and only for kids and it looks awful. It’s the worst in awful Hollywood cynical, make a buck, film-making.
8. Film Socialisme-
All right artsy film lovers challenge me on your Godard fandom. I love artsy movies. I love Tree of Life. I love Where the Wild Things Are. I love Fantasia. I could go on but this is just mind numbingly awful.
It isn’t even a movie. It is clips of people on a cruise, children playing, and a llama at a gas station. How deep and profound. Groan. There are confusing title cards and subtitles that aren’t translations but words in ‘pigeon English’ and sometimes it will just say 1 word. Certain shots are taken with an amateur camera and edited poorly and I guess this is supposed to be all deep but I didn’t get it and I think I’m a pretty smart person?
Well, Roger Ebert didn’t get it either and he won a Pulitzer Prize:
“This film is an affront. It is incoherent, maddening, deliberately opaque and heedless of the ways in which people watch movies. All of that is part of the Godardian method, I am aware, but I feel a bargain of some sort must be struck. We enter the cinema with open minds and goodwill, expecting Godard to engage us in at least a vaguely penetrable way. But in “Film Socialisme,” he expects us to do all the heavy lifting”
It is unwatchable.
9. All Dr Seuss Movies-
I realize this is a bit of a cheat for a top 10 list but I hate all the Dr Seuss movies so much I couldn’t pick one. Horton Hears a Who is definitely the least awful but the live action Grinch and Cat in the Hat are jaw droppingly bad. They take the whimsey of Seuss and turn it into garishness. They take the magic and make it mean-spirited and ugly.
The Lorax perhaps annoys me the most and it is probably my least favorite animated film I’ve ever seen. Why? Well, it takes a subtle story about conservation and only using what we need and turns it into a greedy capitalist condemnation bore. Any reader can walk away from Seuss’ book and feel like they can and should do something to help the environment. Even something small will make a big difference. People walk away from the Lorax movie thinking ‘those greedy CEO’s. Boy, I’m glad I’m not like them’.
Plus, it looks like neon threw up all over it and the songs are awful. The voicecast is Ok but kind of shouty and annoying. I also have to hold it accountable for being an anti-greed and capitalist story and yet when the movie came out it was pimped out to everything from IHOP to Mazda. What a joke. Again Hollywood thinking we are all stupid and showing they will do anything to make an extra buck even stomping on Seuss’ genius.
10. What Women Want-
I would like to remind you that I am actually a defender of the romantic comedy. I made a whole video about it on youtube.
That said, there are a lot of terrible romcom’s I could have put on the list. I could have gone with Failure to Launch, What Happens in Vegas, Ghost of Girlfriends Past, Fools Gold, etc.
What Women Want is especially putrid because of what it claims to say about women. The gimmick in the film is that Mel Gibson can hear what women are thinking after an accident. Could be cute right? Well, according to this movie all women think about is being with men, lusting after men, being dumped by men and how well endowed men are.
Even Gibson’s daughter is preoccupied with sex and wondering if she should sleep with her boyfriend at prom and if she will be pretty enough for him.
The absolute worst part is Marisa Tomei who is a conquest of Gibson’s but in hearing her thoughts he realizes he needs to be extra good in the sack for her because she deserves it. Groan. Women in this movie have all their ‘wants’ met if they are satisfied sexually. That sounds like what men want to believe women want. That’s how shallow a movie it is.
It’s just distasteful, uncomfortable, embarrassing, and awful and I don’t know what usually reliable Nancy Meyers (that’s right it is directed by a woman) was thinking. Not one realization he has is anything that I want. I must be some kind of mutant because here all women are exactly the same. Shame, shame, shame.
The movie I hated the most as a little girl was Return to Oz. I recognize this movie has a certain visual style but it was my most unpleasant experience at the movies and I don’t know how I ended up seeing it.
We take our lovely story of Dorothy and her journey home and add electroshock therapy, restraints, mean family members, wheelies, a hallway of heads, and an overall look and feel that is ugly and mean. I see why some who like that aesthetic like it but I hate it.
So there you go. You asked for it and I delivered. Now let’s get back to positive happy movie reviews!
Melissa Sturm as Smurfette and the Smurf of Christmas Past
Fred Armisen as Brainy Smurf and the Smurf of Christmas Present
Gary Basaraba as Hefty Smurf and the Smurf of Christmas Future
Anton Yelchin as Clumsy Smurf
Hank Azaria as Gargamel
I will start out this post by saying I have no nostalgic feelings towards The Smurfs. The TV show aired from 1981-1989 and I knew about it but my family didn’t have a TV for spurts when I was young and most of the time I had chores on Saturday morning when it aired.
That said, I think the designs are cute. I went into the recent movies with an open mind as I always try to do and boy was I underwhelmed. I would rather watch Dinosaur, my lowest Disney canon film, than either Smurf film again.
What makes them so especially putrid is not the terrible animation, the horrible live action merging, dumb plot, or the cringe-worthy puns. All that is awful but the constant product placement for Sony products is so distasteful. I am aware that product placement has always been a part of children’s programming but I don’t recall anything being as overt and constant as in The Smurfs movies. It is in almost every scene.
Anyway, the Smurf movies will always go down as 2 of the worst movies I’ve ever seen because of all the horribleness and the product placement so naturally I wasn’t very excited to watch Smurfs Christmas Carol but at least it was short unlike movies 1 and 2.
And my friends it’s not very good but it is not as bad as the movies. This is what I like to call a Shoney movie. When I was a girl we would drive by this chain restaurant called Shoney’s and my grandma would say ‘Shoney’s, it’s not that bad’. We would all laugh because why go to a restuarant that is ‘not that bad’ when you can go some place that is actually good. Same with this movie. Why watch it when we’ve got great holiday films for kids like Muppets, Mickey, Charlie Brown etc.
But let’s talk about the short. There was one fascinating aspect to it. Recently I had a vigorous debate about the values of hand drawn animation vs computerized. I said that the variety we seem to be getting in plots, characters since the advent of CG makes me feel positive toward the movement. There are absolutely gorgeous CG films.
Here’s what Smurfs Christmas Carol taught me. Good CG can hold it’s own along with good hand drawn but bad CG is infinitely worse than bad hand drawn.
Differences- To say this is a lose adaptation of Dickens novel is being generous. There is no Cratchit’s, no Jacob Marley. The only similarity is a grumpy man and 3 ghosts.
We start out with Grouchy Smurf being upset with Christmas and he doesn’t want to put the star on the communal tree. This upsets all of smurfdom and Christmas appears to be ruined (although why someone named Grouchy surprises the smurfs when he is grouchy is a bit of a head scratcher). We learn that Grouchy has always wanted a hanglider but every year he gets a hat (which let’s be honest a white hat every year would make me grouchy!).
When Grouchy storms out he goes to his mushroom and Papa Smurf gathers with Brainy, Smurfette and others and makes a potion that will teach Grouchy a lesson. When Grouchy falls under the spell all of the sudden it turns into 2D and it looks a million times better. I don’t think I have seen a switchover like that in a long time and it was shocking.
Smurfette is Past and we learn about Grouchy’s disappointment over the hats. The movie condemns him for this but why does he need a hat every year? But evidently this is an incredibly selfish desire on his part to want something different.
Brainy Smurf is Christmas Present and we learn that Papa Smurf actually individualizes the hats for each Smurf. So it is super selfish but it still doesn’t really seem selfish to me. It seems like a lazy gift giver to do the same thing every year.
Next is Heft Smurf as Christmas Future and this becomes oddly It’s a Wonderful Life where everything in Smurfdom is affected because Grouchy didn’t put the star on the tree. Gargamel has even captured everyone.
Gargamel is about to put Grouchy in his vat that will take way his smurf essence and as he enters the water he says ‘I’ll change’.
So everything is made right and we are back to ugly CG and it turns out Grouchy’s hat is a hang glider after all…Groan.
Strengths- Honestly seeing the difference in the hand drawn and CG was really interesting for me. 2 different studios did both parts and you could tell.
The animation is Shoney’s level at best but the Smurfs are cute so fans will probably enjoy seeing them.
The voicework is pretty good but other than that not much I can recommend. The story with the hats actually makes me feel sorry for Grouchy. Give him something else for goodness sakes. What kind of strange commune is this that every gift has to be the same every year?
Overall I recommend it only for Smurf fans. It’s Shoney level but there is so much better out there.