Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies, the “Smurfs: The Lost Village,” “Going in Style,” “Song to Song” and the documentary “Giants of Africa.”
The all-animated Smurfs: The Lost Village aims to reintroduce the little blue creatures of Smurf Village to a new generation. It’s the first time more than one female Smurf exists in the community.
Featuring the voices of Demi Lovato, Joe Manganiello and Michelle Rodriguez, it trades on its inherent cute factor and nostalgia for much of its appeal. There are some good messages for kids woven in and the animation is relentlessly adorable but is there anything here for anyone over the age of five?
In what may be the most adult plotline in Smurf history, it’s a hero’s journey, a character’s search for purpose. It’s Joseph Conrad via Smurf Village. Smurfette’s Heart of Darkness.
As voiced by Lovato, Smurfette ponders her place in the world. All the other perky pint-sized blue creatures have descriptive names — Clumsy Smurf (Jack McBrayer), Jokey Smurf (Gabriel Iglasias) and Baker Smurf (Gordon Ramsey) — but what exactly, she wonders, is ‘ette’ supposed to mean?
Smurf aficionados will know she is the only female Smurf, created by wizard Gargamel to sow the seeds of jealousy in Smurf Village. With the help of Papa Smurf she became a beacon of sweetness-and-light and the love interest of Smurfs everywhere.
That’s quite a backstory and her quest for purpose is certainly noble, even if her beginnings weren’t. The character was first introduced in Franco-Belgian comics magazine Spirou in 1966 as a marketing tool. According to writer Hal Erickson the comely Smurfette was created as a means to “bow to merchandising dictates” and “appeal to little girl toy consumers.”
It worked and in the decades that followed Smurfette became the most sought after toy from Smurf Village.
The Smurfs are big business, in addition to this weekend’s big screen animated feature, the “three apples tall” characters have been translated into 30 languages (en français: Les Schtroumpfs, in Dutch: De Smurfen) to create an estimated worth of $4 billion, but not all Smurf related marketing has been successful.
Remember Smurf-Berry Crunch? At the height of 1980s Smurf mania Post Cereal released a sugary breakfast cereal they claimed tasted, “like crunchy Smurf Berries… In berry red and Smurfy blue.” To ensure the Smurfiest experience possible Post added little blue corn puff berries laden with food colouring to the mix.
Unfortunately the blue additives weren’t easily digestible by the body, leading alarmed parents to report cases of blue and strange coloured poop after breakfast time. According to poopreport.com, “when metabolized in sufficient quantity, the blue dye combines with bile,” to form a rainbow effect at potty time. The problem was fixed with the release of Smurf Magic Berries, which contained smurfberries made of yellow corn puffs and marshmallows.
For Jack Black Smurf-Berry Crunch also brings back some bad memories. The Kung Fu Panda actor remembers his second professional gig, a breakfast food commercial. “Being in a Smurf-Berry Crunch cereal ad and being pulled along in a red wagon…?” he says, too humiliated to finish the sentence. “My stock plummeted at school.”
I was a bit too cynical to buy into the North American Smurf craze of the 1980s — they were so popular one writer called them “kiddie cocaine” — but now in 2017 I see them as something other than an hour-and-a-half advertisement for Smurfs Are Us.
The new incarnation is a sweet kids movie designed for little ones but with just enough grown-up material to keep parents interested.
The new all Smurf, all-animated movie may be the most adult take on the pint sized blue creatures ever. “Smurfs: The Lost Village” is a hero’s journey, a character in search of a purpose. It’s Joseph Conrad via Smurf Village. Smurfette’s “Heart of Darkness.”
Smurf fans know she is the only female Smurf, created by wizard Gargamel (Rainn Wilson) from a lump of clay to sow the seeds of jealousy in Smurf Village. With the help of Papa Smurf (Mandy Patinkin) she transformed, becoming a beacon of sweetness-and-light and the love interest of Smurfs everywhere.
The new story finds Smurfette voiced by Demi Lovato and pondering her place in the world. All the other perky pint sized blue creatures have descriptive names—Clumsy Smurf (Jack McBrayer), Jokey Smurf (Gabriel Iglasias) and Baker Smurf (Gordon Ramsey)—but what exactly, she wonders, is ‘ette’ supposed to mean?
Her quest of self-discovery leads to the Forbidden Forest where, for the first time, she sees others just like her, girl Smurfs with names like Smurfstorm (Michelle Rodriguez), Smurfwillow (Julia Roberts) and Smurfblossom (Ellie Kemper).
Unfortunately Gargamel, on the hunt for fresh Smurfs to drain of their essence so he can become the most powerful wizard in the world, takes note and makes a plan to invade this previously uncharted Smurf settlement. “If it wasn’t for you,” Gargamel cackles to Smurfette, “I wouldn’t have known about those other Smurfs!” With the help of Clumsy, the bespectacled Brainy (Danny Pudi) and strongman Hefty (Joe Manganiello) the plucky Smurfette sets off to sound warning bells.
First though, the little blue ones must navigate the perils of the Forbidden Forest, a colourful place where the flora and fauna are have minds of their own and aren’t happy to receive visitors. “Nice forest, nice flowers,” says Hefty. “Not nice flowers!” In the inevitable showdown between our heroes, the new Smurfs of the Lost Village and Gargamel, someone shouts, “Smurfette, why did you do this to us?” Gargamel’s chilling response? “Because it was her purpose.”
There’s that word again, purpose. It’s at the heart of Smurfette’s journey. Is she a pseudo-Smurf, a former lump of clay masquerading as part of the tribe? Of course not. The story is one long set up for a feel good message about being anything you want to be and defying labels placed upon you by other people.
Along the way there is loads of gently paced action for young viewers, silly jokes and lots of ear-wormy songs.
“30 Rock’s” Jack McBrayer naturally has the Smurfiest voice of all the Smurfs in Smurfdom but is supported by playful work from Wilson, Kemper, Manganiello and Lovato.
“Smurfs: The Lost Village” may have an adult subtext but unless a surfing pun—“Let’s go smurfboarding!”—cracks you up few over the age of fifteen will find the journey particularly engrossing. This is first and foremost a kid’s movie without the pop culture references that sometime add a layer of maturity to keep things interesting for parents. Older folks might want to put the kids to be and watch this as a drinking game. Do a shot every time one of the characters says the word “Smurf” and you’ll be blue in the face in no time.