A Yeti named Migo stirs up his community when he discovers something that he didn't know existed -- a human.
When I first watched Smallfoot, it wasn't because I was eager to see it but because the children were eager, so off we went. Watching it through the first time, I did find one of the songs felt rather out of place and by the end of the film still didn't see how it fit well. I have since watched it a second time (the kids wanted it on DVD and insisted their Granny watch it with us), and on second viewing I felt the song was a better fit than the first, however you shouldn't have to watch a film again in order for things to fit. Now I enjoy a good musical and I can usually come away with at least one song to add to one of my Spotify playlists, yet whilst I enjoyed the soundtrack, there was nothing I wanted to listen to again.
The plot itself takes the Bigfoot myth and turns it on its head, turning humans into the myth for them and in turn, the discovery of why humans have become myth to these creatures. The plot was a good idea I just don't feel it was as well done as it could have been, one character flip-flops (and it doesn't seem sincere even though it's meant to be) and then the end feels a little rushed and not fully authentic to some of the characters. What I did really enjoy about the film is that the Bigfoot and Littlefoot can't speak the same language and we reach the end of the film with them still unable to speak the same language (some films I've watched come up with a magic plot device to aid communication). My kids really enjoyed the movie, I felt it could have used a little more rewriting before it hit the big screen.
Smallfoot is WAG's (Warner Animation Group) second attempt at competing with Pixar and Dreamworks in something that doesn't revolve around the LEGO franchise. While it certainly has some reasonable animation and a great premise, it finds itself getting bogged down by it's own big ideas.
The premise of the film is an interesting one; for anyone that has seen the history channel or animal planet, they will know that there are many groups that are out searching for the mythical bigfoot. This movie turns that idea on it's head by showing the other side of the equation with a yeti community that also believes humans to be a myth, apart from a small section that believe it's a conspiracy and go out in search of the elusive "smallfoot". There are certainly similarities to Monsters Inc. in the yeti communities fear of humans, but otherwise remains an intriguing notion.
Of course, you can tell in the trailer and movie poster that the two species come across one another and the plot chugs along, using the language barrier to successfully elicit a few laughs. With the yetis casual conversation sounding (and looking?) like aggressive roars to the humans, and the humans talking sounding like high pitched squeaking to the yeti, it proposes an interesting idea of the intelligence of creatures that converse at frequencies that we cannot hear. But I'm thinking far too much for a children's animated film.
The plot takes an unusual turn, looking at the the rules of those in power being used to keep control of the masses using fear and superstition, dispelling any movement towards science or facts. Bringing governmental conspiracies, and the idea that nearly humans are angry beings that will kill and torture animals...well, those are some pretty heavy topics to delve into. And to be honest, while it will likely go over the kids heads, they don't go into it deep enough to really keep the engagement of the parents and other older viewers.
Unique plot points isn't all that Smallfoot tries to throw at you. It also is a bit of a pseudo-musical, with several large musical numbers, that are well done, but ultimately forgettable. Nothing that will be stuck in the children's head like "Let It Go", but the pieces sounded good. That is to say that they did stick out like a sore thumb and felt forced into the movie for the sake of trying to sell a soundtrack. But having actual musicians performing the songs was welcome, and provided a variety of sounds, most notably Common's rap track "Let It Lie". Yes, I said rap.
How were the cast? Well there are a number of huge names in that cast list, but looking at the names of the characters that they played, I was largely at a loss as to which characters they were; and that tells you a lot. Migo, Percy, Meechee and The Stonekeeper were the only ones whose names I could remember, mainly because they were rather forgettable characters. I doesn't matter how different and recognisable they are in appearance, if their personality is non-existent. In fact, stand-out cast members came in the form of Common's Stonekeeper, and Danny DeVito's Dorgle (whose minor role was really the most interesting character arc).
Channing Tatum's Migo was likeable, but a very flip-flopping personality of a character, effectively following what the last person has told him to "right", which in itself goes against everything that the movie is trying to tell us in its "question everything" ideals. The human in the film comes in the form of James Corden's Percy, and he is as close to his real-life personality as possible, even to the point of doing his own extensive karaoke song in the movie. If you like James Corden, you will enjoy his character, if not, then you may find yourself taking issue with his derogative Steve Irwin/David Attenborough-influenced character.
The comedy is inconsistent, and mostly follows the rule of thumb of "kids love physical comedy" and is mostly based on the comedy styling of Wile E Coyote, with multiple over-the-top painful situations jammed into a few minutes, before forgetting it, and switching to "lost in translation" language barrier antics, before the climax of the film which features lightly-coloured fast-paced action sequences.
The film starts out with a strong premise, but it loses steam as it progresses. While the animation is good, and the colour scheme does well with the environment it was given, it still fails to create an eye-catching or memorable location. An interesting idea, that will keep the 6-10 age range entertained, but leave the older children and adults checking their watches at the halfway point. Not great, but good.
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