Smurfs: The Lost Village answers a question nobody has been asking, yet practically every big screen story about the Belgian blue creatures attempts to do so, and that's: "What exactly is Smurfette's purpose"? As a creation of their greatest foe, Gargamel, she was designed to destroy the Smurfs but the pure-hearted Papa Smurf transformed her, made her real, and made her good. But what place does she hold as the only female Smurf? She doesn't build things like Handy Smurf; she isn't a nerd like Brainy Smurf, and she's not vain like Vanity Smurf. So what is she there for? Smurfette's existential journey will probably fly over the heads of the film's target demo of 7-year-old kids, but they'll likely find this totally animated Smurfs movie far more enjoyable than the previous two, which annoyingly mixed animation with live-action celebrity performances.
Despite the previous two movies earning over $900M, Sony wisely jumped in with fully CGI animated Smurfs. The result is a more adventurous movie that isn't shackled by the real world intruding upon it. If there's a drawback it's that it looks a lot like the Oscar-nominated Trolls, and boasts a similarly overused pop soundtrack that grows tiresome quickly. Also there's that problem of the Smurfette question again, but at least the quest for an answer takes the Smurfs to an all-new realm.
Sticking closely to continuity, the film quickly recounts Smurfette's (voiced by Demi Lovato) beginning as a lump of clay, given life by the evil/inept wizard Gargamel (Rainn Wilson) to destroy the Smurfs. Papa Smurf (Mandy Patinkin) did that magic thing he does, now she's a happy and presumably non-evil part of society. But unlike the others, her name says nothing about who she is. While out on a misadventure with Brainy (Danny Pudi), the powerful Hefty (Joe Manganiello), and Clumsy (Jack McBrayer), Smurfette comes across a beige hat similar to the Smurfs' white ones. This sets her off on a quest to find a missing Smurf village in an uncharted part of the forest, and of course Gargamel and his wicked cat Azrael (always the best part of any Smurfs movie) are on the trail.
What Smurfette and her friends fine is a village entirely comprised of female Smurfs. There's the matriarch, Smurf Willow(Julia Roberts), and the tough, dragonfly-riding Smurf Storm (Michelle Rodriguez), and the aggressively friendly Smurf Blossom (Ellie Kemper), along with others voiced by Meghan Trainor and Ariel Winter. There Smurfette begins to feel truly at home, safe in a place where she's allowed to just be herself without worrying about fitting into a niche. It's a simple, progressive message that young girls can take to heart. And while the story of Smurfette's purpose has been done to death, this is the most effective attempt at it yet, perhaps due to female screenwriters Pamela Ribon (Moana) and Stacey Harman, working in concert with Shrek director Kelly Asbury.
You know what you're getting with The Smurfs, and that's a sweet, colorful story with a happy ending. Everything reflects that, and that includes the peppy, neon visuals that will have you drowning in seas of blue. Thankfully, venturing out into a new land provides the chance for a deeper color palette and creatures we haven't seen in a Smurfs movie before, like dancing Smurf-eating plants and fire-breathing dragonflies. Even when things get dark, and the situation does get grim for a spell so warn the kiddies, they never seem too far out of reach. There's always some good luck right around the corner, and this time it comes with a Smurfin' dose of girl power.
Rating: 3 out of 5