AHHHHHHHHHHH! It’s a smallfoot!
It’s funny what having kids does to you. Back when it was just us, we scarcely paid any attention to family films. Now, the thought of something new that everyone can watch fosters legit excitement — until, of course, you invariably see it for the 20th time. Nonetheless, we were ready to check out Smallfoot over the holidays with more than a dozen family members on hand to add a little more juice than usual.
On a mountain in the clouds, a village of yetis goes about their life, employing a series of stones to govern their existence. Each yeti has a job to do, such as ringing a bell each morning to summon a snail that brings light to the world, or feeding ice to unseen beasts labouring to keep the village itself aloft. One such yeti is Migo (Channing Tatum), who is the son of the bell ringer (Danny Devito) and is preparing to take over.
During a trial launch — the bell is rung by a yeti being slingshotted into it — Migo miscalculates his trajectory and ends up outside the village. While there he sees a plane crash and a strange creature eject. When he approaches it he finds that it has small feet, proving the existence of the legendary Smallfoot. Migo rushes back to gather the villagers, but before they can arrive all evidence is wiped away.
Asked to disavow the sighting by the Stonekeeper (Common), Migo refuses and is banished until he recants the story. Instead, he connects with a group of yetis that believe him, led by the chief’s daughter, Meechee (Zendaya), who help him descend below the clouds. Once down there, he finds a human town and encounters Percy (James Corden), a down-on-his-luck documentary maker that’s looking for one big story to save his flagging career.
As with Trolls, Smallfoot benefits from having likable people voicing some of its most important characters. Tatum projects that same kind of amiable every-man vibe, even as a giant yeti, and there’s something so unassuming and whimsical about Corden’s voice in a secondary role. Common’s distinct tone works well as the stern (yet kindly) village elder trying to keep everything running smoothly in the face of major upheaval.
Anyone that watched Looney Tunes growing up should enjoy some of the physical comedy here as the movie often tosses aside any semblance of reality for classic nods to Wile E. Coyote. The other obvious influence is that of Lin-Manuel Miranda on some of the musical numbers, particularly Common’s “Let it Lie,” which feels like it could’ve been ripped from Hamilton or Moana with its situation-specific rhyming lyrics.
Categorizing this as bad is probably overly harsh, but the film doesn’t bring a lot of new stuff to the table. You can easily spot the parallels between the yeti society and our own history, and you pretty much know where the plot is going from the opening credits on. The animation is respectable, but nothing really stands out. And that goes for most of Smallfoot, which is easy enough to enjoy with kids yet unlikely to be remembered for long.
Some of the peripheral characters are kind of annoying, most notably Fleem (Ely Henry), who seems modeled on Chuck from Angry Birds, but they shaded a little too obnoxious — and Henry is no Josh Gad. One of Fleem’s buddies is voiced by LeBron James, who clearly isn’t an actor, and his presence seems to be there purely for name recognition.
THE BONUS FEATURES
It’s a pretty lean set of extras for Smallfoot with a making-of featurette, some music videos from songs featured in the film and a mini movie with one of the tangential characters. You can also watch the movie in sing-a-long mode in which the songs get the karaoke treatment, but there’s little original content here.
Smallfoot is a safe bet to provide a decent night’s entertainment for the family, though there’s little that proves memorable about it.