The Other Side of Animation 87: Smurfs: The Lost Village Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this Review!)

There is always a touch of disappointment when a film series starts to get its spirit and identity on track, but then still fumbles and falls off said tracks. For example, today’s review will be of the Smurf’s fourth foray into being translated onto the big screen. Let’s just say that this new movie had one of the biggest hurdles to get over, in terms of being an animated film. How do you succeed after two financially successful, but critically panned live-action ventures? Well, you kind of don’t. While not a huge financial bomb, it’s probably going to be one of the biggest underperforming animated films of 2017.  Well, let’s see what this new animated adventure directed by Kelly Asbury has to offer.

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The story revolves around the single female Smurf among Smurf Village, Smurfette, voiced by Demi Lovato. She doesn’t feel like she has a purpose, whereas everyone else pretty much does. One day, after hanging out with a few friends, she finds out that there might be a lost village hidden within their world. After getting denied the chance by Papa Smurf, voiced by Mandy Patinkin, to go beyond their village, she decides to go off on her own to find this lost village. She is joined by Hefty Smurf, voiced by Joe Manganiello, Clumsy Smurf, voiced by Jack McBrayer, and Brainy Smurf, voiced by Danny Pudi. On their adventure, they must avoid the grasp of the evil wizard Gargamel, voiced by Rainn Wilson. Can they find this lost village? Who inhabits the village? Was there no real surprise to this film since Sony outright said it was a village of female Smurfs?

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Yeah, that’s probably the biggest problem with this film, there is no real surprise or intrigue to it. It’s like watching an Illumination Entertainment film. It has very pretty visuals and good animation, but the story lacks substance, and seems to rely on its star-studded cast more than actual characters. It doesn’t help that Sony spoiled the surprise, but even then, I think everyone knew what the twist would be. Funny enough, the big twist of the all-female village seems wasted in terms of potential and content. They could explore and wonder what caused this split into bigger detail, or find something very creative to do with such a twist. I think the problem is that it happens in the third act, and then you are introduced to a slew of female Smurfs, which I’m sure were brought in for a possible sequel. It’s a shame, since the characters themselves aren’t terrible, and I sort of like Smurf Willow as this more laid back individual, but you don’t get enough time to flesh them outside of their one character trait. I get that they all have one character trait, but Inside Out had characters who were supposed to be one emotion, but they found ways to expand on said personality traits. Unless you know how to execute simple characters, they come off as bland and forgettable. Even the visuals that they showed off in the trailer, while still very vibrant, get pushed aside. I wanted this film to be more like DreamWorks’ Trolls film, since in that movie, they got to show off super creative creatures, lands, and characters.

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I was also distracted by a ton of the actors they got for the film. It’s another example where they could have either gotten a better voice director or super talented voice actors for the characters, but I get it. You want big names for your film, even though as of right now, no one really went to see your movie. It’s a shame too, since while I think voice actors could have been better choices, and I think Demi Lovato or Meghan Trainor were not needed and come off as pointless, I did enjoy the rest of the cast. Mandy Patinkin does a decent Papa Smurf, Joe Manganiello as Hefty was decent, Danny Pudi was a perfect choice for Brainy, Jack McBrayer, while not doing anything new, is fun as Clumsy, Rainn Wilson actually isn’t bad as Gargamel, though I think Hank Azaria did the voice better in the live-action films. Julia Roberts was good as Smurf Willow, Michelle Rodriguez was basically playing herself as Smurf Storm, Ellie Kemper is maybe a tad too annoying as Smurf Blossom, and Ariel Winter as Smurf Lily is pointless. They are doing their best to be these new characters, and I get that voice acting and acting in general is hard, but I don’t see them as the characters. They also do that thing where they bring in a ton of celebrities to do a line or two, like Gordon Ramsay is Baker Smurf, Tituss Burgess is Vanity Smurf, Gabriel Iglesias is Jokey Smurf, Jeff Dunham is Farmer Smurf, and Kelly Asbury is Nosy Smurf. The only two legit voice actors they hired were Frank Welker as Gargamel’s cat Azrael, and Dee Bradley Baker as Gargamel’s pet vulture, Monty.

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So, did I like anything about the movie? Well, I really enjoyed the animation. I consider this to be the best looking Sony Pictures Animated film to date. I love the colors, how the designs stay close to the original source material, and it’s not too Sony Animation-ish where it’s super hyper and it doesn’t take time to breathe. The colors are very vibrant, and when they are able to show off more of the magical stuff of the world, it’s fun to look at. I wish they could have done more than what we got. Even though the humor is very hit-and-miss with a lot of cop-out jokes, I did like the river scene with Gargamel and the Smurfs. Like I said above, while I was still distracted by all the actors in the film, they did their best. I mean, you are getting paid to be in what is essentially an apology letter for the previous two dumpster fires, so I think you would do your best to be invested within your roles.

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Smurfs the Lost Village is definitely leagues better than the live-action films that came out, and it definitely is creative in the visuals department. If you had to watch one Smurfs film, it’s definitely this one. If the story and pacing were better, along with the writing, I think they really could have had a hidden gem, or one of the better surprises in terms of animation. It needed to be more timeless than pandering to most casual moviegoers to leave a better impact. If this was made in Europe, maybe France, had 2D animation, or it was made in the 80s, I think we could have gotten more of an edge or more bite to the overall experience. Sadly, it’s just another dud that may or may not hurt Sony Pictures Animation if their upcoming Emoji Movie tanks as well. If you haven’t seen it yet, I would definitely wait for a rental. I can see some kids enjoying it, but I don’t know how long-lasting this film’s appeal will be, compared to something like The LEGO Batman Movie or My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea has. Maybe pick it up if you find it for cheap when it comes out, but there is no rush to see this film. In fact, how about we take a look at My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea next time? Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the article, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Lackluster

How Smurfs: The Lost Village Does a Good and Bad Job at a First Impression

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial!)

Heads up!: I had to use concept art for the new movie due to the limited images available for the teaser. Enjoy the editorial!

I am going to keep saying this again in the future, but I’m going to say it here, because it’s important. You only get one first impression, and if you mess it up, it’s never going to undo itself so you can start over. Why do I bring this up? Because Sony recently released a new trailer for the upcoming Smurfs: The Lost Village film. After two pretty lousy and rancid live-action films, they are going back, rebooting the whole film series, and making it animated. Because you know, they probably should have done that in the first place! All we knew was that it was going to be closer to the source material and be fully animated. We only got some pictures for what they were going for, but no actual footage. Then, they released a teaser for the film showing off some of the characters and the overall tone. Let’s say that they did a good and a bad job with their only first impression of showing off this new movie.

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Now, you could say this is harsh in terms of criticizing the movie for one teaser trailer, but these days, and especially during 2016, marketing has been horrible for many movies that were hidden gems, not that bad, or were legit bad, but made all of them look unpleasing due to bad marketing and edited trailers. I feel like this generation doesn’t get that you will never get a second chance in terms of a first impression. You need to hit it out of the park first and foremost. You could improve in the future in terms of marketing and trailers, but it will still be tainted by that first misstep. Let’s break down the teaser, shall we? By the way, I’m going to be talking about the international and the US version of the trailer.

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When the trailer starts up, the international trailer is 30 or so seconds longer than the 34-second US trailer. So, let’s start with that first part. I will give credit that how they start the trailer with a static shot of the rating and general audience warning section, and then catch the crowd by surprise with the Smurf on the other side of the screen pushing against it. The US one just skips to Clumsy Smurf pushing the rating label, and has the rest of them breaking the fourth wall by looking down at the audience. The international version throws in a few seconds of the characters talking, and including a butt joke for immature reasons. Listen, I’m not a super-uptight prude, and can enjoy a stupid crass joke or stoner comedy, but since this is an animated film aimed at families, crass butt jokes are scapegoats for lazy writing and sloppy jokes that the higher-ups came up with, instead of the actual writers. People aren’t as dumb as you make them out to be, Sony!

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Anyway, once the fourth wall has been broken, one of the positives come up, the animation. It looks beautiful, energetic, the colors are vibrant, and the Smurfs look like Smurfs. You know, unlike the two live-action films, and the humor is not super cringe-worthy, with Brainy trying not to get eaten by a flower. Granted, it leads to another lazy burp joke, but then the animation ends shortly after.

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Now then, we get to the point that annoyed most of the viewers that saw this teaser, and the biggest difference between the two teasers. The international trailer uses a more indie pop rock song that, while I don’t think it fully fits the setting of the Smurfs, at least they weren’t dumb enough to put a rap song in the US trailer. Oh wait, they did! It’s so jarring, cynical, and pandering to think “let’s throw a rap song from a rapper people haven’t heard of in years because kids like rap these days!” Yes, I like a few rap songs, but I’m not into rap, and a rap song doesn’t fit the tone of The Smurfs.

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Now, of course, this could just be the horrible marketing team putting in these jokes, bits, and rap music that won’t be part of the main movie, but knowing how this is Sony, I won’t hold my breath and be shocked if they do somehow shove rap songs into a film that takes place in a fantasy world.
Listen, I get it, this is probably chalked up to bad marketing and notes from the executives, but it’s so annoying that studios think the public is stupid. Yes, sometimes the public will, from time to time, support films and shows that have no quality to them, but they aren’t that dumb to think “oh hey, this Smurfs film has butt jokes and rap! I love it!” Instead, most of the comments and reactions I have seen were “the animation looks great, but that teaser was terrible and vapid.” In 2016, so many films have failed because of bad marketing. I’m still going to wait and see how this film looks, but in terms of first impressions, it did a good and a bad job all at the same time. We will have to wait and see if the marketing learns their lesson in terms of how to promote this movie.