The first two feature films about the Smurfs (in 2011 with its sequel in 2013) had been combination live action and animation films. Hank Azaria and Neil Patrick Harris did live action roles, while Anton Yelchin and Katy Perry provided the voices of certain featured animated Smurfs. They were both clunky, corny and over-the-top, really not so good. Feedback had been so bad the planned third film was scrapped.
This year, I was surprised that this franchise actually makes a comeback. It is a reboot of sorts in an totally animated form. Due to what came before, I had my doubts about watching this one, but my kids wanted to go give it a try, so off we went.
Smurfette is feeling depressed that she does not know her exact role within the Smurf community. Her dubious origins came back to focus when she inadvertently leads their nemesis Gargamel to a new village of Smurfs in the Forbidden Forest beyond their walls. Together with her friends, Hefty, Brainy and Clumsy, Smurfette rushes against time and the evil wizard to warn the new Smurfs about the great danger that is about to befall them.
Demi Lovato as Smurfette was good, but not really distinct. Honestly I could not tell it apart from Katy Perry's voice in the first Smurfs film, or even Anna Kendrick's as Poppy in Trolls. Rainn Wilson was Gargamel in another manic comic performance of this hateful character. Joe Manganiello gave Hefty Smurf voice realistic machismo despite its squeak. Mandy Patinkin gives Papa Smurf his venerable voice this time. From the new community of Smurfs, notable voices belong to Michelle Rodriguez as the intrepid amazon warrior Smurf Storm, and Julia Roberts as the wise and motherly Smurf Willow.
Because the Trolls just had their film recently a few months back, it is difficult not to compare these two films. The 3D animation and the pop music soundtrack give both of them a very similar vibe at the start. As the film goes on though, you will note that the visuals were just a little less dynamic and the songs were just a little less catchy in this new "Smurfs" vis a vis the incredibly crazy colors and infectiously danceable tunes in "Trolls". The quality of this Sony Pictures Animation fell a tad short of the Dreamworks standard.
There is an underlying message of woman empowerment here as Smurfette figures out her true calling. Being a children's film, the ending is oh-so-predictable for adults. It is quite reminiscent of the ending of the recent "Kung Fu Panda 3" (2016), and almost identical to the ending of "Pokemon:The First Movie" (1998). However I think it could still be moving enough to get tears flowing from susceptible audiences. Ultimately, it was wise to not bring the Smurfs into the real world like the first two films did. Keeping the cute Smurfs in their own world and exploring new parts of it will gave this franchise a new lease on life. 6/10.