A Look on the Lighter Side: Lost in the jungle, from Smurf to Z

A Look on the Lighter Side: Lost in the jungle, from  Smurf to Z

Two movies came to town last weekend, with radically different perspectives on virtually the same idea.

I speak, of course, of “The Lost City of Z” and that other epic adventure, “Smurfs: The Lost Village.”

First, I went to see “The Lost City of Z.”

This action/adventure film tells the unbelievable-but-apparently-true story of Percival Harrison Fawcett, a British soldier, surveyor and explorer, who was commissioned in 1906 by the Royal Geographic Society to survey the border between Brazil and Bolivia.

On the resulting expedition through the Amazon, Fawcett hears a legend of a long-lost native civilization, somewhere in the jungle.

He makes it his life’s work to find the place.

To judge from the film, he returns home in between adventures only long enough to sire a new child each time with wife Nina (Sienna Miller), who magically never ages.

She remains upbeat and devoted, untouched by such worldly concerns as pregnancy, labor, and the rearing of three children on no visible means of support.

There is also no sign of either cook or servants, and yet you never see her touch a dish.

Quite the fantasy tale.

There’s just one little thing that sets her off: being told by her husband that she can’t go with him on his second trip.

“The children will be in school,” she protests, so there’s no reason she can’t come along.

I suppose by “school” she means boarding school.

But even so, she sounds completely deranged — as if the expedition were for buying bonnets one afternoon in town, rather than spending months slogging through an Amazon jungle that could easily kill them both.

Fawcett tries, rather lamely, to explain to Nina that women and men are not equally strong.

“In courage, yes,” he says. “But not in physical strength.”

Nina replies with a rant about the strength it takes just to get through childbirth, a phenomenon he has never stuck around long enough even to witness.

“You tell him!” I’m thinking — but eventually she caves, even allowing their oldest son to go with his father on the third expedition.

It did cross my mind to wonder why, by this third time, Fawcett did not provide his expedition with anything stronger than a handkerchief against the inevitable hail of deadly native arrows which apparently marred every trip.

I am thinking even the natives must have wondered: “Why does this crazy white man keep rafting up our river with no protection?”

I also wondered why holding up a book (which looks like a Bible) and shouting in Spanish (“Amigos! Amigos!”) would be expected to pacify native people whose experience with Westerners probably ranged from unfortunate to horrific.

Alas, these and other mysteries were never answered.

By contrast, I found the animated “Smurfs: The Lost Village” much more believable.

Sure, they live in a village composed entirely of male Smurfs, except for one Smurfette.

You might think such a lifestyle to be unsustainable — but it’s no worse than the usual sort of harem kept by kings of old, except in reverse.

The thing is, none of the Smurfs even seem to know what a female is; I guess no one is ever born in Smurf Village.

Still, Smurfette starts to wonder, why is she different, and what is her “purpose?”

Somehow — I’m fuzzy on how — this sets her on the road to discovering, and then saving, a lost world on the other side of a big wall.

Perhaps I should mention that my own childhood was blessedly Smurf-free, so I was never forced to wonder how anyone could survive exposure to a show in which the word “smurf” somehow served as adjective, subject, verb, and adverb, all in the same sentence (as in, “The smurfy Smurf smurfs smurfily.”)

But that was before I had to endure Teletubbies and Barney the purple dinosaur.

By that standard, this film was riveting.  I didn’t even fall asleep!

There were some points at which things got smashed up, which reminded me how one of my boys would always turn to me, at such times, and whisper “Who is going to fix that?” The answer, I’m afraid, is: No one ever does.

Ultimately, although Lord knows the Smurfs tried my patience, I thought their adventure was the more wholesome one — warning a village that doesn’t know it is in peril, as opposed to obsessively chasing a legend that just wants to rest in peace.

But the choice is up to you.

Either merits a big container of popcorn.

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