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Family Movie Review: Smallfoot (PG)

‘Smallfoot’ is brightly animated, with a gently encouraging message about curiosity, but the film’s fun voice cast can’t redeem its totally unnecessary songs.

Kernel Rating: 3 (3 out of 5)

MPAA Rating: PG          Length: 96 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 8+. This animated film focuses on a community of Yetis who learn of the existence of humans, which shakes the fundamental beliefs of their religion and inspires various questions throughout the community. There’s a variety of slapstick physical humor including an airplane crash, a variety of falls from great heights, and Yetis being chased with dart guns and sedatives, and there is some bathroom humor. A couple of characters have crushes on each other and lightly flirt, and there is some rude language. The message overall is to question accepted norms and think for yourself, which should be encouraging for younger viewers.

By Roxana Hadadi

Every so often, animated children’s movies raise the question of whether what everyone says about you is actually right for you. “Moana” featured the daughter of a chief setting off on her own to explore the history of her people; “Early Man” explored what happened when an unlikely group of cavemen learned how to play soccer; and now “Smallfoot” asks viewers if all elements of a religion or a way of life should be accepted without any questioning. How “Smallfoot” encourages individuality will feel somewhat familiar to older viewers who recognize this sort of theme in family films, but the film is brightly animated and nicely paced, and should keep young viewers engaged.

Smallfoot2 ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewThe film takes place in a Himalayan village, where a community of Yetis have lived for years and follow a strict series of beliefs and communal responsibilities. They believe the great snail who crawls across the sky (the sun) must be called each morning by a great gong, and that job will eventually be held by the young Yeti Migo (voiced by Channing Tatum, of “The LEGO Batman Movie”), who launches himself across mountains and great expanses to reach the gong so he can follow in his father’s footsteps.

That’s just one element of the village belief system, which is dictated by the village chief, the Stonekeeper (voiced by Common, of “Barbershop: The Next Cut”), who banishes Yetis who disagree with him (“If there’s a question causing you to go astray, just stuff it down inside of you until it goes away” is basically the community’s motto). But he doesn’t know that even his own daughter, Meechee (voiced by Zendaya, of “The Greatest Showman”) has doubts that Yetis are the only beings around, and that she is the leader of the Smallfoot Evidentiary Society, an organization that is committed to the idea that humans—or, as the Yetis call them, “smallfoots”—exist.

Meechee’s suspicions come true when Migo, while flying through the air to hit the gong and rouse the sun, spots an airplane and a human, the TV show host Percy (James Corden, of “Ocean’s 8”). Percy thinks the Yetis could be excellent for his TV ratings and Migo thinks that Percy is proof that the Stonekeeper has been lying to the village this whole time, so they each have a use for the other—although to Yetis, humans sound like insects buzzing, and to humans, Yetis sound like they’re constantly growling. Can the two find common ground?

“Smallfoot” has all the elements children’s movies seem to have lately: the protagonist doubling as an overzealous narrator, a few different songs that allow the voice cast to shine (musician Common has the best song, “Let It Lie,” and Zendaya does well here, as she did in “The Greatest Showman,” but Corden’s song set to Queen’s “Under Pressure” is a low point), and spry, colorful animation that makes even monstrous characters seem friendly and approachable (somewhat similar to “Trolls,” the Yetis here accessorize with different colored hairstyles).

Some elements are stronger than others, and although the film tries toward its conclusion to pack in too many messages—be yourself, question norms, be curious, don’t judge others—“Smallfoot” is ultimately a pleasant diversion. It’s uneven, but the voice cast led by Tatum is up the task and the animation adds some welcome goofiness to a story that is attempting uniqueness within a familiar formula.

 Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater. 

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