As a child, I remember reading about the legends of Bigfoot and the Abominable Snowman, also known as the Yeti. What in the world were these huge hairy creatures, and why were people unable to capture anything other than shadowy pictures of them?Were they simply afraid of people? Did they have something sinister to hide? Or were they allergic to anything relating to humanity?
Past films have done one of three things involving Bigfoot and/or Yetis: (1) identified them as gruesome monsters nobody wants to mess with, (2) portrayed them as creatures worth exploring the woods and mountains for, or (3) simply casting them as misunderstood beings. Fairly recent examples of this last phenomenon include Harry and the Hendersons and Monsters, Inc.. We can now add to that Smallfoot, a animated feature from Warner Brothers. Based on a book called Yeti Tracks by Sergio Pablo, Smallfoot offers viewers a story about discovering the truth that’s wrapped in layers of colorful, pastel-tinted computer graphics. There are definitely some things kids (and adults alike) will take away from the film, but I feel like it cobbled too much from past movies, limiting its effectiveness.
In a nutshell, Smallfoot is about a land of Yetis who seem to have the perfect life living on their mountain perch. Nobody visits their ‘world’ and they don’t visit anyone—mainly because the world ends in a cloudbank of unknown depth (paralleling Storks). Nobody is convicted to go beyond what they already know as safe (paralleling The Giver). A tight set of rules, drawn on stones in pictorial form and worn by the Stonekeeper (voiced by the rapper Common), governs the Yetis in an attempt to keep them safe and insulated (again, paralleling The Giver). Questioning is severely frowned upon (paralleling 1984). When Migo (voiced by Channing Tatum) spots a Smallfoot—err, human, he’s immediately fascinated. Maybe the stones were incorrect! But the human suddenly parachutes below the bank of clouds, leaving Migo (and later, a few additional Yeti) curious at what lies below. When he discovers humans aren’t as bad as one might think, Migo brings his discovery to the attention of the people and the Stonekeeper. At this point, the film spirals into the realm of why humans and Yetis cannot co-exist before a betrayal-redemption sequence (including a chase through the Pac-Man inspired town where the humans live) occurs. In addition, a number of peppy songs contribute to making the film lighthearted, even when the subject matter becomes more serious in nature.
The quality of the animation is quite good, though it’s in more in the vein of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs versus anything Pixar-related. As for the characters, Migo is somewhat memorable for a lead, as he discovers himself and what he truly believes in while filling in the blanks about questions he’s always had. The Stonekeeper has a unique outfit along with truths to tell—and hide (although it’s pretty jarring to hear a rapper’s voice leading the group at first). The group that seems to understand Migo are completely serviceable—except for Fleem (Ely Henry), who attempts comic relief but completely falls flat. Percy (James Corden) is a Steve Irwin wannabe who wants to get rich but finds something more when he looks beyond his dreams, plans, and numerous selfies.
There are a number of themes kids and adults alike will be able to take from a viewing of Smallfoot, especially in the area of telling the truth. Migo sees the Smallfoot (i.e., Percy) and, when he tells the community, he is banished because it goes against the stones and causes the other Yetis to start questioning. At this point, he could’ve simply accepted the ruling of the Stonekeeper and moved on, but he held fast to what he believed, found Percy, and proved they exist. Later, he suppresses this truth in the name of keeping the Yetis safe. However, Migo learns that telling the truth can be costly. In a similar vein, we can consider the apostles who were commissioned by Jesus in Matthew 28 to tell the world about him. They knew what the truth was, but not everyone wanted to hear and/or believe it. As a result, persecution followed (and, in some cases, death). We need to understand that it’s always better to tell the truth about what we believe rather than give in and confuse and/or deny our beliefs.
Kids are going to find Smallfoot to be an entertaining, joyous romp peppered with lessons they’ll be talking about on the way home from the theater. Adults may also find this to be the case.
Smallfoot is in theatres now.
For audio of our interview with Smallfoot writer/director Karey Kirkpatrick, click here.