Smurfs: The Lost Village review: Third time's the charm

From left) Brainy, Clumsy, Hefty and Smurfette venture into the wild blue yonder in Smurfs: The Lost Village.
From left) Brainy, Clumsy, Hefty and Smurfette venture into the wild blue yonder in Smurfs: The Lost Village. PHOTO: SONY PICTURES

REVIEW / ANIMATION COMEDY

SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE (Rating to be advised)

90 minutes/Opens tomorrow/3/5 stars

The story: When Smurfette (voiced by Demi Lovato) and her pals - Clumsy (Jack McBrayer), Hefty (Joe Manganiello) and Brainy (Danny Pudi) - learn that the evil wizard Gargamel (Rainn Wilson) is searching for another Smurf Village such as theirs, they race to beat him there and warn their undiscovered brethren.

Connoisseurs of these iconic characters will be glad to know that Sony's third movie in the franchise has none of the annoying live- action actors or real-world settings of the previous two.

This is the Smurfs' first fully animated CGI outing. It is not only respectful of the source material, but also charmingly pretty in parts.

Director Kelly Asbury - who helmed Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron (2002) and Gnomeo & Juliet (2011) - and his team's Smurf world boasts fantastical creatures such as dragonflies that breathe fire and glow-in-the-dark bunnies, and surreal environments such as a floating river.

Smurf creator Peyo's visual style - eyes that are joined together, mouths that move independently of the head shape and jaw, eyebrows that pop off the face - is incorporated into the character models.

When a character gets hit, impact stars and fight clouds would appear onscreen, just like in the comics. In fact, Peyo's daughter, Veronique Culliford, reportedly cried when she saw character designer Patrick Mate's drawings, as they were so close to her late dad's original designs.

The dress-wearing Smurfette is the protagonist here - a pseudoSmurf suffering from imposter syndrome. She is painfully aware that while she has been accepted by the Smurfs, she was birthed from a lump of clay by their biggest enemy, Gargamel. Can Smurfette, who does not believe she is a real Smurf, be the truest of them all?

This theme of transcendental identity has been explored in James Cameron's Avatar (2009) and the American remake of Ghost In The Shell, now playing in Singapore cinemas. That is about the best thing non-fan adults can latch on to because there is little else that is relatable or thought-provoking.

Wilson chews a considerable amount of scenery as Gargamel, while the rest of the cast turn in serviceable performances.

There are a few other well-known names who voice the denizens of the titular village, but to reveal them would give away one of the movie's biggest surprises, of which there are not many.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2017, with the headline 'Third time's the charm'. Print Edition | Subscribe