Smurfs: The Lost Village (2 stars)

Smurfs: The Lost Village

This wholly animated franchise reboot features a meagre plot, some bad puns and too much sappiness

That lost village isn't the only thing that goes astray in the ungainly return of Belgian artist Peyo's little blue critters. The previous two Smurfs movies weren't great, but what pleasures they did deliver stemmed from their pantomimic pile-ups of animated and live-action elements. With the human cast now ditched, what's left is an ill-plotted, all-animated adventure made up of a few under-cooked girl-power nods and a lot of sappiness. It's a film so sugary, it might test the tummy of Trolls' cupcake-loving Poppy.

The meagre plot basically regurgitates The Smurfs 2's core ingredients: Smurfette's identity crisis and a series of chases. The prologue tells us there's a Smurf for everything; among others, we meet Nosey, Karate and – in a rare gag here with potential – Paranoid Smurf. But where does that leave the Demi Lovato-voiced Smurfette, a girl created by wicked wizard Gargamel (Rainn Wilson) with no specific Smurf-y function?

As Smurfette and friends Brainy (Danny Pudi), Clumsy (Jack McBrayer) and Hefty (Joe Manganiello) undertake a quest to resolve her existential panic, said village promises answers of sorts. But their journey is mostly an excuse for the plot to devolve into a string of Gargamel-vs-Smurfs pursuits through psychedelic jungle-land, comprised largely of lifts from Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, sundry Journey to… films and Avatar.

Director Kelly Asbury (Shrek 2) might have stood a better chance of selling this if he had human counterparts and counter-narratives to offset the cutesiness and pinball plotting. As Gargamel in the live-action films, Hank Azaria had the right idea: go for broke. But Wilson struggles to match his predecessor's madcap glee with only his voice and some evil puns to work with. 'Prepare for Gar-mageddon' is about the level of writers Stacey Harman and Pamela Ribon's groaners. Undemanding kids might not mind. But accompanying adults would be well advised to steel themselves.

General release from Fri 31 Mar.

Smurfs: The Lost Village

  • 2 stars
  • 2017
  • USA
  • 1h 29min
  • U
  • Directed by: Kelly Asbury
  • Written by: Stacey Harman/Pamela Ribon
  • Cast: Demi Lovato, Ariel Winter, Julia Roberts, Joe Manganiello
  • UK release: 31 March 2017

Smurfette (Lovato) and her friends go on a quest to help her find her place in the village, and the result is a series of chases, a few under-cooked girl-power nods and a lot of sappiness. Undemanding kids might have a good time; adults will have to grin and smurf it.