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Smurfs: The Lost Village (2017)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
4K UHD Released: 7/11/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/6/2017

In my recent review for The Fate of the Furious, I wrote about how most movie franchises go through a series of changes. They attempt to keep the movies similar enough to keep the core audience engaged, but without being accused of copying themselves. In most cases, the story changes a little from movie-to-movie and side characters come and go, but the movies remain the same at the core. But, what if the movie changed mediums all-together? 2011's The Smurfs and 2013's The Smurfs 2, were comprised mainly of live-action footage in which computer-generated Smurf characters were inserted. Now, four years later, we get a new Smurfs movie, which turns away from the live-action approach and brings us Smurfs: The Lost Village, a completely CG-animated film. Does this change make things better or worse?

Life is good in Smurf Village, which is overseen by Papa Smurf (voiced by Mandy Patinkin), where every Smurf has their own unique personality and the little blue creatures live in harmony. One day, Smurfette (voiced by Demi Lovato), Hefty Smurf (voiced by Joe Manganiello), Brainy Smurf (voiced by Danny Pudi), and Clumsy Smurf (voiced by Jack McBrayer), decide to go "Smurfboarding". Smurfette lands near a rock wall, where she glimpses a stranger and finds a hat. She is then snatched by a bird who takes the helpless Smurf to Gargamel (voiced by Rainn Wilson), the evil wizard who is bent on finding the Smurfs. Examining the hat leads Gargamel to conclude that a new breed of Smurfs is living nearby. Smurfette's friends rescue her and they embark on a quest to find the new Smurfs and warn them of the imminent danger.

When The Smurfs emerged in 2011, it wasn't necessarily surprising. Joining a wave of Generation X nostalgia, the film was meant to fuel fond memories of the 1980s Saturday-morning television show and the ubiquitous plastic figurines. The movieís approach was somewhat out of the blue (no pun intended) as, again, it blended live-action footage, featuring Neil Patrick Harris, and animated characters. Those movies were successful enough (for some reason), but they had apparently run their course, as the new continuation of the franchise, somewhat ignores those earlier movies and goes for a strictly animated take.

Iím sure that this new style wonít create that much controversy amongst fans. What could be an issue is how pedestrian this movie is. The first two Smurfs feature films weren't ground-breaking or even necessarily good movies, but at least they tried something a little different. Smurfs: The Lost Village simply feels like a feature-length episode of the old animated series. We get the Smurfs, we get Gargamel, we get Azrael, and an "adventure" which never ventures outside of a predicted route. The movie also trots out the very tired "where does Smurfette" fit in storyline, which we've seen before. (If she hasn't figured it out by now, she's not going to.) The only new thing here is the new Smurfs and they don't feel all that new. They are simply a darker shade of blue and their clothes are off-white, but, otherwise, they are exactly like the familiar Smurfs, save for the fact that they are all female.

The movie also plays it too safe with its overall tone. According to the MPAA, the film is rated PG for "some mild action and rude humor". I must have missed that "rude humor", as I felt that Smurfs: The Lost Village skewed far too vanilla. There's nothing wrong with a family film wanting to keep things wholesome for the kids, but there is nothing here for anyone over the age of 10 to grasp on to. The only thing which comes close is Nosey Smurf, who is voiced by Director Kelly Asbury. Flying in the face of all of this is Hefty Smurf's unabashed crush on Smurfette. It comes across as stalkerish at times, and it sends a really weird message about what is OK for a male to say to a female. On the artistic front, the animation sports a nice amount of detail and they've nailed the look of the characters from the old show. The voice-acting is good and adds some much-need personality to the affair. But, the overall impression given by Smurfs: The Lost Village screams direct-to-video, as opposed to theatrical event.

Smurfs: The Lost Village never explains how a bug is a camera and printer on 4K UHD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 57 Mbps. The image is very, very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. This is the epitome of a digital-to-digital transfer, as the image is razor-sharp. The colors look good, and the image is never overly dark or bright. Having said that, the colors are somewhat muted at times and I thought that the Smurfs would bluer. The level of detail is phenomenal, as we can see the textures on the Smurfs' hats, and the depth, even in this 2D version, is notable. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos 7.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 6.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. While the track is somewhat sedate at times, the action sequences deliver stereo and surround effects that bring us detailed sounds, emanating from the front and rear channels. The subwoofer effects are a bit restrained, but add substance at times.

The lone extra on the Smurfs: The Lost Village 4K UHD is an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Kelly Asbury, Animation Supervisor Alan Hawkins, and Head of Story Brandon Jeffers. The remainder of the extras are found on the Blu-ray Disc included in this set. The Disc contains four DELETED SCENES which run about 8 minutes. All four scenes are presented in storyboard form, and some come from a version of the script which offered a different storyline. "Kids at Heart! The Making of Smurfs: The Lost Village" (9 minutes) is an odd featurette in which Asbury describes the casting process and the making of the film, while children act out the roles. What? We do get comments from the actors and some of the filmmaking team. "The Lost Auditions" (4 minutes) has the actors doing fake auditions for other roles. "Demi Lovato Meets Smurfette" (1 minute) has Smurfette interviewing Lovato. I think that "Lost Village Dance Along" (3 minutes) is supposed to teach us a dance, but I'm not sure. "Smurfify Your Nails" (2 minutes) is the nail polish tutorial that I've been waiting for. "Baker Smurf's Mini Kitchen" (4 minutes) is one of those little cooking Youtube videos. We get the MUSIC VIDEO for "I'm A Lady" by Meghan Trainor. "Making the Song 'You Will Always Find Me In Your Heart'" (3 minutes) has composer Christopher Lennertz commenting on the music from the film's finale. "The Sound of the Smurfs" (4 minutes) has Lennertz talking about the film's overall score.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long