Creating a family film, nowadays, is a complicated feat. Kids are much more technologically savvy and there are worlds of creative content just a smartphone away, and usually for free. It takes a good story, with a strong, yet not overbearing message, and a lot of wit and whimsy to keep not just a child’s attention, but nudge a parent to want to spend those hard earned dollars at the movies. Smallfoot, though not a technological marvel, has a great message for families today that encourages thought and challenging the status quo, it also adds just the right amount of humor, and while the musical numbers don’t really strike a chord (sorry, there’s no “Let It Go” or “Can’t Stop This Feeling” here), the overall film is enjoyable and entertaining, and minimal eye rolls given by my tween.
Migo (Channing Tatum) is a Yeti, living in a large community high in the Himalayan mountains. He is next in line to become the gong-ringer, once his dad (Danny DeVito) retires. The gong-ringer has one job, and it’s an important one, and that is to hit the gong (by flinging himself across a mountain and hitting the bullseye with his head) that wakes the sun and gets the village going for the day. And just like in many communities, everyone has a part to play to keep the village running as it has for hundreds of years. You see the yeti village, has long lived their lives according to what The Stonekeeper (Common) proclaims their sacred stones have inscribed. And you do not question the stones. Ever. Migo is fine not to question this way of life until one day, he meets a mythical hairless creature known as the “Smallfoot”, which really is a human by the name of Percy (James Corden).
Migo and his friends, Meechee (Zendaya), Gwangi (LeBron James) and
The film’s true strength is how it weaves it’s message of challenging the rules, and those that rule, if they are based on lies. It subtly encourages children to weight their own judgment and create their own paths in life, despite how things may have always been. The filmmakers did a great job and not managing to preach while also keeping the story light enough that a toddler would be entertainment, but witty enough that it wasn’t too “babyish” for a middle schooler. At times it relies too heavy on the slapstick humor, and Corden is once more a tad too extra for my own taste. The music, just didn’t connect and felt a bit forced into the story. Almost like the filmmakers felt that was a necessary point to liven up the slow parts.
While the animation is from from the likes of Pixar and Disney, the color palette is stunning. It truly feels like you’re watching a snowy Yeti filled wonderland, and sometimes, that’s just the escape you need.
Smallfoot opens September 28th