Review – ‘Smallfoot’ squanders its thematic smarts with generic kiddie action

Poster for 2018 animated comedy Smallfoot

Genre: Comedy
Certificate: U
UK Release Date: 12th October 2018
Runtime: 96 minutes
Director: Karey Kirkpatrick
Writer: Karey Kirkpatrick, Clare Sera
Starring: Channing Tatum, James Corden, Zendaya, Common, Danny DeVito, LeBron James, Gina Rodriguez
Synopsis: An insular yeti society is rocked by the revelation that legends of a ‘smallfoot’ lurking below the cloud layer are true.

 

 

The best animated films are the ones that have more to say than what can be seen on the surface. Pixar, in particular, has made its name by smuggling eloquent and mature messages about death, growing up, consumerism and friendship into its movies. Warner Animation Group is no stranger to that either, having skewered capitalism and championed joy in The Lego Movie, alongside madder and more straightforward adventures like Storks. Their latest is Smallfoot, which has interesting ideas, but little idea of how to execute them in an engaging way.

Enthusiastic yeti Migo (Channing Tatum) absolutely loves the society in which he lives, where the wisdom of stone tablets goes completely unquestioned and everyone believes the world “fell from the butt of the great sky yak” thanks to the influence of the Stonekeeper (Common). When Migo finds himself leaving the yetis’ mountaintop home above the clouds, he witnesses a plane crash and meets wildlife presenter Percy (James Corden). This confirms the yeti myth of the ‘smallfoot’ and throws doubt over everything the sacred stones have to say.

There are some very timely themes at play throughout Smallfoot. This is a society where any dissent is dismissed as what might as well be called ‘fake news’ and blind faith is the most prized quality in citizens. There’s an entire song themed around the notion of how Migo should “just let it lie” and, in one crushing moment, Migo sadly intones “I miss being ignorant”, as if enlightenment is at fault for shattering the fragile equilibrium of his existence.

So far, so engaging. Unfortunately, though, Smallfoot is a pretty dull and insipid animated movie that deals almost exclusively in tropes. The visual palette is lacking in any brightness or energy, which is particularly frustrating when it comes to the entirely bland musical numbers. There isn’t a single memorable song in the movie and, indeed, there’s little in the entire affair that lingers in the memory after the credits roll. Indeed, the one thing that might keep the movie in people’s minds is a pleasantly catchy internet meme that had nothing to do with the filmmakers.

There’s little overall to recommend Smallfoot, which exists as nothing more than a blip in the currently very strong climate for animated movies. Given the lack of a Pixar release since Coco, the road could have been clear for Warner to hit a home run with Smallfoot. However, this is a film that bungles its social commentary in favour of generic action and uninspired visuals. The story might be set in a snow-covered wilderness, but it’s the audience that is left out in the cold.

Pop or Poop?

Rating: Poop!

A game voice cast tries its best to inject some energy into Smallfoot, but it’s a film that is entirely at sea in attempting to translate its interesting central idea into a compelling story. The songs are immediately forgettable, the visuals have very little sense of invention and the entire thing just limps through its action.

 

Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.

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