Smurfs: The Lost Village Review

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.

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Spiderman News!

spiderman

We can all now be grateful Amazing Spiderman 2 was such a dud.  Without it we would never have gotten the exciting news of yesterday.  It’s something comic book movie fans never thought would happen.  Marvel and Sony have reached a deal to allow Spiderman to be in the MCU.  This means we will probably see Spidey in the Marvel Civil War movies.  Thor 3 and Black Panther have now been pushed back by a year in their release dates.

I know some people liked the recent reboot but I was never a big fan.  Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were good but the stories and especially villains were cluttered and uninteresting.  Plus, all the constant Sony product placement drove me crazy.  Sony will still own Spiderman and they will have some creative control but Marvel will hopefully be able to fix Sony’s big mistakes.

I think what could be really cool is they did motion capture for the flying sequences.  This would help it feel like a real person flying through the air instead of a computer graphic.  I also hope they cast someone who bridges the gap of nerdy Peter Parker and suave Spiderman.

My personal choice would be Logan Lerman and his name has been floating around.  I think he has a geeky side to him but also can be very cute.  He’s a good actor and is in one of my favorite movies of all time Perks of Being a Wallflower.  He was just shown in Fury to have a more adult tough side.

logan lermanEither way I have confidence in Marvel with how great Guardians and Captain America 2 were last year.  People love picking on anything that is popular and Marvel is no exception but I honestly feel it is unwarranted.  At least in my eyes their various franchises are very different. Captain America 2 was basically a spy movie more than it was a traditional superhero film.  Thor is more of an epic solemn feel.  Guardians was a lot like Star Wars with a fun eclectic group saving the galaxy. People talk about Marvel schtick but I really don’t see it.  To me there is a ton more diversity at Marvel than at DC which has produced the same gloomy picture over and over again.

I’m so excited to see what Joss Whedon can do with Spiderman.  I hope he gets put on the project because I think he will take it in an unexpected route. He’s so creative how could he not!

Anyway, I’m very excited.  Are you? Who would you cast as Spiderman?  Go Marvel!

Now we just have to hope Fantastic 4 is bad and we can get those over to Marvel too.  (JK I hope it is good).

Scrooge 3: The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol

smurfs poster

Trailer:

Cast:

George Lopez as Grouchy Smurf
Jack Angel as Papa Smurf
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.

sonyAnyway, 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.

smurf

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.

smurfs
Doesn’t this look so much better than the image above?

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.

smurf past
Smurfette Past and Grouchy

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.

smurfsbrainychristmaspresentNext 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.  smurf of future

Gargamel_Christmas_Carol

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.