Opening this week:
Smurfs: The Lost Village—The third entry in Sony's Smurf series focuses on Smurfette, the lone female among the tiny blue-skinned residents of Smurf Village. The first two films in this series, from 2011 and 2013, were both directed by Raja Gosnell and mixed animation with live action. The Lost Village is all animated, and eschews any visits to the human world. The plot concerns the discovery of a previously unknown neighboring Smurf village, and the quest by Smurfette and some of her friends to warn its inhabitants of a threat from the sinister wizard Gargamel and his much more observant cat Azreal.
In case you've managed to remain unfamiliar with the elfin race created in the late '50s by the Belgian cartoonist Pierre "Peyo" Culliford, the Smurfs (originally "Les Schtroumpfs") are named according to their defining characteristic, as in Brainy Smurf, Clumsy Smurf, Nosey Smurf, Paranoid Smurf, etc. Only Smurfette lacks a signature trait. She has a rather Manichaean backstory, having been created by Gargamel as an agent against the Smurfs, then won over to the side of light by exposure to their relentless niceness. But she feels incomplete without her very own adjective.
The movie's acknowledgement of the presumption, longstanding in the narrative traditions of our culture, that Smurfette's gender is sufficient by itself to define her, is potentially interesting. But nothing much is done with it, beyond acknowledgement, and otherwise this is a pretty by-the-numbers animated kid flick. It's watchable enough, but about the most that can be said for it is that it's inoffensive.
Demi Lovato replaces the earlier film's Katy Perry as the voice of Smurfette, while Rainn Wilson does his usual droll work as the voice of Gargamel, replacing the live-action version of Hank Azaria. Mandy Patinkin replaces the late Jonathan Winters as Papa Smurf, while the leader of the newly discovered village is voiced by Julia Roberts. Strange to think that the Pretty Woman herself is ready for matriarch roles.