FAMILY NIGHT AT THE MOVIE | By Christopher Hill –

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The Smurfs are back again.

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But will kids tell their friends?

The Smurfs have been around since 1958 when a Belgian artist, Peyo, created a series called Les Schtroumphs, which introduced tiny blue characters whose names represent the work or characteristic they personify.

Over time, those characters have spawned video games, television shows, movies and even theme park attractions. It was the Smurfs’ 1981 Saturday morning cartoon series that brought them to America and in front of a mass audience. The Smurfs ran for eight years, with reruns airing even today. In 2011, The Smurfs found a home as a live-action, animated feature. The success of the film spawned a sequel aptly titled Smurfs 2. Despite both films grossing nearly a billion dollars, Sony Pictures decided to eschew the live-action trilogy and developed instead a purely animated feature Smurfs: The Lost Village.

Brainy (Danny Pudi), Hefty (Joe Manganiello), Smurfette (Demi Lovato) and Clumsy (Jack McBrayer) embark on an exciting and thrilling race through the Forbidden Forest.

This time, the focus is on Smurfette (Demi Lovato), the lone female member of the all-male ensemble in Smurf Village. Actually, when you really look at each film, the focus is almost always on Smurfette, partially due to her unique positioning in their universe and her origin story. While we do not know how the Smurfs’ village was populated, we do know that Smurfette was created out of blue clay by the evil magician Gargamel (Rainn Wilson). Her backstory is central to the theme of the movie, which is good, because to date, no other Smurf really has a backstory.

Smurfette accidently stumbles onto a member of another tribe of Smurfs. To her, the random encounter shows that their Smurf Village is not alone. She and some of her best mates head off to find this lost village. Unwittingly, they allow Gargamel, his cat and his pet bird to discover their mission as they attempt to find the village first.

Demi Lovato voices Smurfette in Smurfs: The Lost Village.

The film dabbles a bit in the realm of acceptance and the feelings of being an outsider, but the depth is puddle deep. Unlike some recent animated movies that are designed to connect to the audiences’ emotional core – Inside Out, for instance – Smurfs: The Lost Village drives past those options and delivers a story more likely to be seen on the television show. While everything is wrapped up in a bow, adult viewers with too much time on their hands could be left to wonder why, if you have a society in which each character is named for what their job is, you would have one known as “Table Eater.” But clearly, this is not a movie made for adults. It is made for children. The tone, humor and action are all designed for those 10 and under. Assuming this, I brought my youngest who fits into that demographic. She thought the film was “smurfy” – and that’s a compliment. She giggled throughout and proclaimed it the “best movie ever” afterward. However, when pressed, she did want to make sure readers would be aware of an emotional ending that brought a few tears to her eyes.

Parents need to know that she is right. It was a fairly well set-up ending that is a bit more impactful than one would expect. Don’t worry though. In a contrived finish, everything is right with Smurf Village in the end.

In the end, quibbling with shallow characters and sophomoric humor misses the point. Smurfs: The Lost Village is a bright, colorful film distinctly designed with kids in mind. There is nothing too scary. The movie flows to its conclusion with humor, some action, and there is nothing to offend along the way. This will be a family film that your youngest may find smurftastic but will probably not ask to view again.

Smurfs: The Lost Village
Now Showing: In Theaters Now
Rated: PG
Violence: Only cartoon action sequences, but the finale provides an emotional sequence that younger viewers may have difficulty with.
Language: None
Sexuality: None