Smallfoot movie review: This animated comedy has big ideas and enough heart to make a lasting impact

Smallfoot, featuring Channing Tatum and James Corden, is a fun, silly ride for all ages

Mihir Fadnavis September 28, 2018 16:52:33 IST

3/5

Smallfoot is quite a surprise. Not only is it a fun ride full of vibrant animation and eye popping colours for kids, but it’s also a more emotionally resonant film than you expect. It’s funny, silly, entertaining and offers a cinematic showcase of adult themes being executed in an expert manner.

Smallfoot movie review This animated comedy has big ideas and enough heart to make a lasting impact

Smallfoot promo still. Image via Twitter

We’re introduced to a group of Yetis on a Himalayan mountain – like in most animation films, the animals live and behave like humans and follow rules and scriptures that are set in stone. Migo (voiced by Channing Tatum) is one such Yeti, who is excited to join the brethren of welcoming the morning sun by bonking his head on a gong. Things take a turn when Migo stumbles onto a plane crash and meets a human aka Smallfoot named Percy (James Corden). Percy and Migo form a bond but the Yeti leader warns Migo about humans and their behavior, and advises him to stay away from them.

Here’s where Smallfoot suddenly becomes more interesting than it needed to be – the Yeti protagonist begins questioning the rules and regulations of his own society, and the film becomes a veritable lesson on critical thinking and questioning the very concept of religion. The notion of ‘smallfoot’ being a human as a mythical creature for the Yetis is a great subversion that results in both humour and wonder, as the dynamic between Migo and Percy keeps escalating. It’s a fun riff on I am Legend where a group of Boogeymen would consider themselves to be normal and a human to be a boogeyman.

Writer-director Karey Kirkpatrick makes his characters sophisticated and layered enough to explore these themes in breezy, fun ways. There is a lot of exposition in the film but the balance between visual and verbal information keeps things from seeming like a school lesson. Migo’s journey ultimately becomes the highlight of the film – as he rallies against the powers that be which exert control through jingoistic means. The Moses-like choices Migo makes has an impact on his whole clan, signaling thoughtful screenwriting that somehow satisfies all age groups. The disparity between human and Yeti languages is mined for very funny situations particularly because the humans sound like mice to Yetis – a couple of these running gags will have you holding your stomach in laughter.

The closest comparison can be made to the Seth Rogen's animated comedy Sausage Party, which also dealt with themes surrounding antiquated norms and questioning religious orthodoxy. Smallfoot is a far gentler and more accessible film of course, and there are pop songs here for a more mainstream appeal. The film also works as a throwback to classic Warner Bros cartoons with a ‘woke’ theme and the zaniness of films like Storks. The voice work is fine, if a bit too familiar – particularly with Corden sounding exactly like his own self, even more so because he plays a TV honcho dealing with falling ratings. The lack of buzz surrounding the film is odd given its quality, but do visit a theater to watch it on the big screen. It’s a film that has big ideas and just enough heart to make a lasting impact before its inevitable streaming life.

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