3 Stars — Wholesome

In a wholesome way, the Smurf franchise has entered the gender discussions. Designed not only to recognize that every person has a unique ability, this chapter of the tale, Smurfs: The Lost Village, also recognizes the unique value of both male and female Smurfs. But it does so in an interesting way.

Directed by Kelly Asbury (Shrek 2) and based on the writing team of Stacey Harman and Pamela Ribon, the story begins by showing us a village that has only males.

Led by Papa Smurf (voice by Mandy Patinkin), we are introduced to the various members of the clan by their primary characteristic: Hefty Smurf (voice by Joe Manganiello) is strong and viral, Clumsy Smurf (voice by Jack McBrayer) is accident prone, Brainy Smurf (voice by Danny Pudi) is smart, and so on the introduction goes.

Until we come to the beautiful Smurfette (voice by Demi Lovato). Smurfette is different.

We are set up by the story to think that her difference is that she is the only female in the village, but we soon discover her difference is so much more. We won’t spoil that central part of the tale.

The villain is Gargamel (voice by Rainn Wilson), a wannabe wizard who doesn’t have the power of magic inherent in the Smurfs. Gargamel’s plan is to create a machine that can extract the Smurf powers and transfuse them into himself. The only problem is that he has to find them.

It is here that the tale introduces us to a “lost village.” Due to the adventurous and playful spirit of Smurfette, she happens upon the eyes of a Smurf she has never seen before.

Watching this Smurf flee through a crack in the wall surrounding the forbidden forest, she soon discovers that Gargamel knows of their existence and sets out to capture them. Smurfette goes to warn them of his plan.

Taking a very imaginative journey, she and her companions — Hefty, Clumsy and Brainy — soon discover that the Smurf she saw is from a village of only females, just as hers was a village of only males. It is then that the adventure of gender stereotypes and gender uniqueness is explored. It is also where Smurfette discovers her purpose.

It is difficult to explore gender without creating an inherent disrespect for either male or female. This film accomplishes that difficult task and creates a visual conversation that will be helpful for all.


» In a day when gender is being brought to the fore of identity formation, how much of your identity comes from your gender? What is the primary focus of your identity? Is it your faith, your vocation, your family, your race, your education, or some unique aspect to you? How does your identity affect your decisions?

» The question of procreation is not a part of the Smurf stories. Yet in Hefty’s attraction to Smurfette, and Papa Smurf with Smurfwillow (voice by Julia Roberts), we see this inherent in this tale. Do you believe attraction would be present even if Smurfs do not procreate?

» If you were writing this tale what more would you add to the discussion about gender and purpose?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is the retired pastor of Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara and lead superintendent of Free Methodist Church in Southern California. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.