When an overeager Yeti finds himself outside the walls of his community he has a chance encounter that would forever change his fate. The entire village is abuzz when Mingo (Channing Tatum) shares the news of his encounter with a human being whom they call a Smallfoot. No Yeti has ever seen a Smallfoot and the Holy Stones say that they don’t even exist, so the feelings within the village are a mixture of scared, excited and skeptical. The skepticism grows when the Smallfoot is nowhere to be found. When Mingo challenges the Holy Stones he finds himself banished from the village until he comes to his senses. Instead of conceding that he was wrong, he searches for the Smallfoot and along the way finds some unlikely friends in the S.E.S. (Smallfoot Evidentiary Society) that will help him on his journey. Like most animated films, Smallfoot, packs a heavy thematic punch. Tucked underneath a gleeful story of a Yeti trying to redeem himself by finding a human, is good messaging. The deep moments were balanced with a fun adventure and some real good music. It all comes together to make Smallfoot a very entertaining and fulfilling experience.
Smallfoot wastes no time getting right into its adventure. After an opening song by Mingo (similar to Moana’s “Where You Are” because it effectively builds the world), he meets the Smallfoot and sets off on his adventure. While the table setting is necessary and the song was good, the film got off to a shaky start. Things were moving a bit too fast. Soon after we are introduced to this incredible village, we are taken away from it. We end up in a bar listening to a poor rendition of “Under Pessure” by James Corden, which is a bit jarring. There wasn’t enough established to really understand what was going on. This is a problem that is quickly mended by delightful adventure, and once Smallfoot gets going, it gets real good real fast.
There is a lot to like about Smallfoot but the most impressive is the screenplay. It is a very clever story that is a lot of fun. There were clever bits weaved all throughout that were genuinely funny and furthered the story. The relationship between Mingo and Percy is a perfect example of this. The perspective would switch from time to time between the characters and each time this happened we would see what the other looked like to them. This was incredibly funny at times because from Mingo’s perspective he is talking politely to Percy but from Percy’s perspective Mingo is terrifying. This creates a whole bit of fun humor between human and Yeti and how they try to communicate. There is also some fish out of water humor that comes across well in Smallfoot. Whether it’s Percy trying to explain his socks to some younger Yeti’s or Meechee (Zendaya) discovering Candy Crush, it was fun seeing the two groups interact with each other. These little bits were a lot of fun and helped elevate the story.
The clever screenplay wasn’t all about funny bits. The best animated films have messages that work for both the children and adults. Smallfoot is really a story about acceptance. It develops slowly throughout the film but it comes together beautifully in the end. Directors Karey Kirkpatrick and Jason Reisig spend a majority of the film showing us that there isn’t much of a difference between Yetis and humans. This plays perfectly in today’s climate and makes this the perfect film for children. The adventure itself isn’t a groundbreaking story but it does work as the perfect backdrop for all of the themes that are put into the film. There is a lot to digest but in a good way. You fall in love with these characters and this world, so when things start to change it really warms your heart.
Right up there with the great story is the music. Smallfoot has some pretty strong musical moments. There were the right amount of songs and there was a good balance between songs and the rest of the film. The songs came in at the right moments and lend to multiple listens, which will keep this film fresh for awhile. Zendaya’s “Wonderful Life” is a highlight of the film. It’s a great song on it’s own and it fits into the story well but it also showcased Zendaya’s incredible talent. This song was the highlight for her and one of the highlights of the film. My personal favorite was Common’s (Stonekeeper) “Let It Lie”. As a hip-hop head I’ll never turn down an opportunity to hear Common rap but I enjoyed this song in particular because it fit into the film well, it didn’t feel forced. Channing Tatum also did a good job with his songs. I didn’t know that Tatum could sing so it was a wonderful surprise to hear him open the film. The only misstep was from James Corden, who I normally love. It was less of Corden’s performance as it was a poor song. “Percy’s Pressure” was an unnecessary exposition dump of a song that didn’t flow with the rest of the film. Honestly I’m tired of hearing “Under Pressure” in movies. Even with that mistake Smallfoot’s soundtrack is solid. It was a good reflection of the film itself, it was fun, good and deeper than you would expect.
Smallfoot is the type of animated film you want to take your kids to. It is fun enough for everyone to enjoy and they will learn something along the way. It won’t blow you away with anything that is going on but it’s a good movie. That is something that is becoming increasingly rare so it is nice to have a movie like this. Take your kids to go see it and even if you don’t have kids, go see it. You’ll have a good time and the message will resonate.
3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Directors: Karey Kirkpatrick & Jason Reisig Writers: Karey Kirkpatrick, Clare Sera, John Requa (screen story), Glenn Ficarra (screen story) based on the book "Yeti Tracks" by Sergio Pablos Starring: Channing Tatum, James Corden, Zendaya, Common, LeBron James, Danny DeVito, Gina Rodriguez, Yara Shahidi & Ely Henry Release Date: September 28th Rated: PG Runtime: 1 hour and 36 minutes