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Smurfs: The Lost Village

A Smurf in need is a Smurf indeed in director Kelly Asbury's family-friendly comedy, which reboots the misadventures of the cute blue creatures created by Belgian illustrator Peyo. Smurfs: The Lost Village abandons the uneasy conflation of live action and digital trickery, which dogged previous Smurf feature films, and settles on computer animation to render the colour-saturated escapades of Papa Smurf and his three inch tall kin. Asbury's picture adopts a strongly female-centric storyline in the hope of mimicking the success of Disney's Frozen, Zootropolis, Finding Dory and Moana, but muddles its core message of female empowerment and independence. On the one hand, Stacey Harman and Pamela Ribon's simplistic script repeatedly emphasises that a young woman isn't handcuffed to her past. She will be judged by her kind words and sensitive deeds. Yet for each rallying cry to girls to boldly shape their destiny, the film also fails to elegantly articulate the internal conflict of heroine Smurfette and frequently relies on male protagonists to move the narrative forwards. Most Smurfs know their purpose and have names that reflect their talents including Hefty (voiced by Joe Manganiello), Clumsy (Jack McBrayer), Brainy (Danny Pudi) and Table-Eating Smurf. "We're not too sure about him either," concedes Papa Smurf (Mandy Patinkin) in voiceover. However, Smurfette (Demi Lovato) is clueless about her calling because she was originally fashioned from clay by evil wizard Gargamel (Rainn Wilson) in order to wreak havoc in Smurf Village. During a foray into the Forbidden Forest with Hefty, Clumsy and Brainy, Smurfette stumbles upon a lost tribe of female Smurfs led by SmurfWillow (Julia Roberts), who teach the new sister to use a bow and arrow, and fly through the air on a daisy. Smurfette senses she may have found her place but Gargamel and his cat Azrael also know about Smurf Grove and intend to capture SmurfWillow and her sorority, including fiery-tempered warrior SmurfStorm (Michelle Rodriguez), effusive chatterbox SmurfBlossom (Ellie Kemper) and smartly practical SmurfLily (Ariel Winter). Meanwhile, back in Smurf Village, Papa Smurf is furious to discover four of his wards have defied express orders and strayed into the Forbidden Forest. "When I find those Smurfs, I will ground them for a month of blue moons!" he rages. Placed side by side with yesteryear's joy-filled Trolls and its infectious Oscar nominated soundtrack, Smurfs: The Lost Village feels light on substance, sophistication and emotional complexity. Arguably the film's comic crescendo comes from evil wizard Gargamel retrieving "a piece of cheese I left in my underpants," as a pungent ingredient for one of his wicked spells. Humour is skewed towards the very young, and joke-starved adults may be mimicking the actions of Sleepy Smurf or Grouchy Smurf before the end credits roll.