Smallfoot, much like the hairy yetis that prance around in its boundaries, is a fuzzy and fairly familiar film. There isn’t anything radically different or new here that’s going to blow anyone’s socks off, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The movie features solid acting, great animation, lively songs, and a story that just manages to pull its weight throughout the course of the movie and then finally dump it over the finishing line. The movie doesn’t shoot for any particularly high boundaries in its composition, but it performs everything it intends to do with an admirable level of polish. Smallfoot won’t win any awards for creativity or innovation, but it’s still a well-made, enjoyable family flick.
The film follows a pack of yetis living alone, isolated in their own village at the top of a mountain, separated from the rest of the world by a cloud of fog. They are shown happily living their peaceful but relatively meaningless lives. They all have tasks to perform, but, if asked, none of them could adequately describe just what they are doing, or why. This is, in part, due to the demands of the Stonekeeper, who strongly discourages any kind of free thought as being against the rules demanded by the “stones,” which he wears draped around his neck. One day, however, a yeti named Migo (Channing Tatum) stumbles across a smallfoot (the yetis’ term for a human).
While the narrative of the film is certainly serviceable in advancing the plot from one stage to the next, it isn’t something with which audiences will be unfamiliar. The writing and story take no chances at trying anything new or very interesting, and the movie, remaining firmly grounded at all times, can feel like it is playing things a little too safe. Most of the plot points can be predicted by most people well in advance.
In addition, the bland writing does no favors for the development of the characters. Many of Migo’s friends seem to lack any real, distinct personalities, which causes them to really blend together over the course of the movie’s hour and 40 minutes. For example, compare the characters in Smallfoot to those in, say, Ice Age, and you can spot an immediate difference in the uniqueness of the roles, and that’s not only because Ice Age features different animals while Smallfoot focuses on yetis.
A final (smaller) knock toward the flow and writing of the film is that the insertion of some of the songs (the movie features several, all of which are, like the film itself, serviceable, but not excellent) feels a bit jarring, almost as if the music and film were created totally independently, and then made to awkwardly try to gel together.
But the cast makes up for most of the flaws generated by the lukewarm script that they are presented with. It’s quite a star-studded lineup, featuring names like Tatum, Danny Devito, James Corden, and even Lebron James, who all deliver excellent performances. Their lines are delivered with great energy and a splash of pizzaz that keeps the short dialogue segments interesting and engaging.
Another bright spot of the movie is the animation. Fluid and vivacious, special note should also go to the vibrant colors that were on display at times, really popping off the screen. It seems kind of weird to specifically mention the colors in an animated film, but they really seemed to be especially vivid.
There certainly is a take-home message that the movie is trying to foist, although how deep or interesting it is will be up for debate. This isn’t the kind of film that can be said to “resonate with both children and adults” as is often brought up as a sort of buzz-phrase for animated classics like Finding Nemo and The Incredibles, but younger audiences might learn something while older folks will be satisfied with the simple but elegant morals from this acceptable story.
Featured Image by Warner Bros