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Kernel Rating (out of 5): whole-popcorn-kernalwhole-popcorn-kernalhalf-popcorn-kernal(2.5 out of 5)

MPAA Rating: PG       Length: 89 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 7+. This “Smurfs” film is a reboot of the film franchise, so it is unrelated to the previous two films released a few years ago. The content is still pretty much the same: some bathroom humor and gross-out jokes; some mild violence and action sequences, including a river chase sequence, carnivorous fish, explosions, and fights between the Smurfs and the wizard who wants to kill them; some flirting and a sexually themed joke; and a major plot point about a female character trying to figure out her identity and her purpose in a community that is predominantly male.

‘Smurfs: The Lost Village’ resets the film franchise, but the movie feels more made-for-TV than worthy of a 3D upcharge. Nevertheless, a focus on Smurfette and her struggle to define herself has some nicely insightful moments.

By Roxana Hadadi

SmurfsTheLostVillage ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewAre the Smurfs still relevant? You’ll wonder this while watching “Smurfs: The Lost Village,” an attempt to reset the film franchise only a few years after 2011’s “The Smurfs” and 2013’s “The Smurfs 2” made hundreds of millions at the box office. But there is more and more competition for the family market every day, and the Smurfs can’t rest on familiarity and nostalgia anymore. That’s exactly what makes “The Lost Village,” even though it is disconnected from the preceding two films, feel so stale.

The storyline for “The Lost Village,” with an all-new voice cast featuring pop star Demi Lovato, Joe Manganiello (of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”), Jack McBrayer (of “They Came Together”), Danny Pudi, and Rainn Wilson, is basically the same plot that was used when this franchise instead featured pop star Katy Perry, Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris, and George Lopez. The voices may change, but the plot is frustratingly familiar.

The narrative focuses on Smurfette (voiced by Lovato), who was created from clay by the evil wizard Gargamel (voiced by Wilson), to infiltrate the Smurfs and help Gargamel steal their magic for himself. Instead, Smurfette has been accepted by the Smurfs, including the strong, smitten Hefty (voiced by Manganiello), the smart, resourceful Brainy (voiced by Pudi), and the well-meaning, accident-prone Clumsy (voiced by McBrayer). Papa Smurf (voiced by Mandy Patinkin, of “The Wind Rises”), who leads their village and serves as her father figure, tells Smurfette that she “shines.”

Inside, however, Smurfette is consumed by self-doubt, constantly worried that she’ll somehow betray the Smurfs and end up doing what Gargamel intended all along. So when she spots what seems to be a Smurf who she doesn’t know scurrying into the Forbidden Forest—and when Gargamel uses her to learn that there is a secret village of Smurfs for him to hunt and destroy—Smurfette sees an opportunity to prove herself. “Gargamel’s wrong about me,” she says. “I’m meant to save the Smurfs.”

The bulk of the film is devoted to Smurfette and the self-proclaimed Smurfs Team of Hefty, Brainy, and Clumsy making their way through the Forbidden Forest to find the lost village and warn them of Gargamel’s upcoming attack. What they find, though, is totally unexpected—but a welcome opportunity for Smurfette to discover elements about her identity that she could never understand when living in an all-male Smurfs community.

That transformation for Smurfette is the most thoughtful element of “The Lost Village.” Although the character’s confusion about her identity and her purpose is often a major plot point for the Smurfs, there is some welcome nuance here when Smurfette interacts with Papa Smurf, the Smurfs Team, and her new friends, and although the ending gets a bit heavy-handed (“Smurfette can be anything she wants to be!” someone proclaims), her journey will still resonate with young, female viewers.

Still, so much else of “The Lost Village” feels uninspired. Gargamel’s general idiocy and ineffectiveness as a villain is exhausting only minutes in, and the silliness of his plots will only really worry or engage particularly young viewers; older audiences will tire of his flailing, foolish antics. Some of the animation elements, like carnivorous flowers and plants floating with eyeballs, feel derivative of the more stylishly animated “Trolls.” And the 3D effects, while used nicely in sequences with flying dragonflies and a river chase, are too minimal to be worth the ticket upcharge.

It is ultimately confusing why “Smurfs: The Lost Village” received a big-screen rollout instead of going straight to home release or on demand—this is a movie to put on for kids on a rainy Saturday afternoon, not a reason to pay $15 at the theater. Smurfette’s character growth is worthwhile viewing for girls, but at home, and not at a 3D price.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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