Wednesday, April 10, 2019


When I first saw trailers for Smallfoot, it didn’t really appeal to me. Though the idea of a yeti story from the yeti’s perspective seemed like an interesting premise, the trailers made it appear like another dumb kids movie, so I had no desire to see it in theaters. When this movie appeared as an entertainment option on a recent flight, however, I decided I may as well check it out to see if it was as bad as the trailers made it look. I was proven wrong, however it still wasn’t one of the best animated films I had ever seen.

High up in the Himalayan mountains, a yeti named Migo (Channing Tatum) is supposed to surpass his father (Danny DeVito) as the official gong ringer to raise the sun, however a practice ring leads him to miss the gong completely. Upon landing, he encounters a human, which yetis refer to as a “smallfoot”, however circumstances lead them to believe he is crazy and the Stonekeeper (Common), the leader of the yetis, banishes him for speaking apparent falsehoods. Meanwhile, a nature documentary filmmaker named Percy Patterson (James Corden) is willing to sacrifice integrity to get better ratings, including taking advantage of a yeti sighting claim from the aforementioned human. When Percy and Migo encounter each other for the first time, Migo starts a chain of events that leads to other yetis questioning their culture.

The plot of the movie turned out to be a lot more interesting (and surprisingly deep) than I first thought, as it explores themes of faith and what happens when one’s beliefs turn out to be a lie, as well as the idea that the one in charge has the power to control the flow of information. The relationship between humans and yetis is explored from both sides, though it primarily delves into the perspective of the yetis, making you think about who the real monsters are. There’s also some well-paced funny moments to create levity, though some bits got more of a chuckle out of me than others; a particular moment is when the evidence of Migo’s smallfoot sighting is covered up, which sort of felt like a Phineas and Ferb moment to me.

What I did not expect was for the movie to be a musical, as there are six short musical numbers that manage to be spaced out enough to not get obnoxious. The noise from the plane I viewed the movie on caused me to miss most of the lyrics, though I was able to get a better listen later through official YouTube uploads of the songs. One stand-out is "Let It Lie", which puts Common’s rapping abilities on display as the Stonekeeper reveals to Migo the foundations of yeti culture and why things are the way they are. Migo’s musical number at the beginning of the movie ("Perfection") also contains an early indicator that something is very wrong, which was enough to make me curious about what was really going on.

Migo (Channing Tatum, left) and Percy (James Corden, right) meet for
the first time, though Percy doesn't know Migo is real yet.

The animation and art direction are a highlight, with good use of the color blue for the yetis and the color red for humans. The character designs are interesting, though I found the designs of the yetis more interesting as they displayed a lot of visual diversity in terms of body size and shape language. I also liked the designs of the yetis’ society, as it seemed like the animators and designers had thought everything through and it seemed believable.

The voice casting was another surprise for me, in that it actually seemed to work. James Corden is more tolerable voicing Percy, in that he managed to portray the character in a way that reflects how one might react upon finding out yetis are not only real, they also have a fascination with human culture. LeBron James and Danny DeVito also worked surprisingly well, as they brought some great personality to their respective roles. Justin Roiland of Rick and Morty fame is also in it, though playing a bit part as a yeti.

Smallfoot is better than I assumed it would be, though it’s overall just okay. It wouldn’t be fair for me to criticize the music, though the story and animation were executed well and the voice acting worked for what it was. There are certainly more enjoyable animated films out there, including Warner Animation Group’s own hit The LEGO Movie, however Smallfoot is still a decent option for family entertainment. This movie also seemed to start a trend of yeti-themed animated movies (similarly to the time when penguin movies were all the rage), including Dreamworks' Abominable and Laika’s Missing Link, which, due to animation lead time, may just be coincidence; that being said, Smallfoot didn’t really make me want to start investing in this trend.

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