In Smallfoot, director Karey Kirkpatrick takes a stab at resolving political difference, fake news and partisan thinking through the medium of an animated children’s blockbuster. The story follows Migo, a young yeti whose mountaintop paradise is interrupted when a human pilot crash-lands in front of him, putting him face to face with the legendary smallfoot. The discovery upsets the balance of the small yeti village and Migo must decide whether to join in the lie or join the resistance and find the truth. He is helped by a budding friendship with the human, Percy, a washed-up wildlife TV presenter.
What really stands out in Smallfoot is its embrace of eccentricity and the eclectic, a value sometimes overlooked in huge films with a please-all outlook. The songs are few but varied in genre, with standard musical fare sitting beside a surprisingly excellent R&B number sung by the leader of the yeti village, played by Chicago rapper Common. The whole cast makes a rag tag and unusual bunch, with Channing Tatum, LeBron James, Zendeya and James Cordon also playing leading roles. Kirkpatrick really lets the individual personality and talents of this cast come through, making the characters appealing and the texture of the film varied and interesting. This appreciation of the eccentric also comes through in the humour. Besides the obvious slapstick to appeal to the younger end of the crowd, there is also some smart and interesting comedy to be found in the communication between the bigfoot and smallfoot worlds that lands laughs each time.
Unfortunately, the nuance of the movie peters out in the final act as the stakes rise for the characters and the plot gets busier. The sweet moments of characterisation get lost in a rush for action and momentum for which the groundwork has not been laid. It is also in the last third that the messaging of the film is hammered home with huge, yeti hands. The moral, that uncomfortable truth is better than easy fantasy and that communication will overcome barriers, is admirable and a great message for children. The delivery of the message is hammy and saccharine, however, and seems to preach down to and underestimate its young audience.
Despite its faults, this is a very watchable, feel-good movie that delivers fun songs and good gags. It is a charming, easy and earnest comedy that attempts the worthwhile task of explaining the complex and uncomfortable to a young audience.
Smallfoot is released nationwide on 12th October 2018.
Watch the trailer for Smallfoot here: