Adapting from the book ‘Yeti Tracks’ by animator Sergio Pablos is Dreamworks Animation veteran Karey Kirkpatrick and his co-director Jason Reisig, and the duo fashion a lively, fast-paced and colourful action adventure that sees our hero Migo (Channing Tatum) venture below the clouds concealing their mountaintop habitat to find the smallfoot and prove that he isn’t lying or delusional. But had the movie simply been about Migo confronting the ostensibly deceitful Stonekeeper, it would probably be no more than the stuff of Saturday-morning cartoons; instead, Kirkpatrick and co-writer Clare Sera find unexpected depth digging deeper into why the bigfoots had sequestered themselves in the first place, weaving in a poignant lesson on the dangers of fear and close-mindedness as well as the transformative power of communication.
You never know what you’re going to get with non-Disney/Pixar animation. It might be an Illumination Entertainment-style effort — lacking in substance but lots of wise cracks and kid-friendly touches (think “Minions” or “Sing”) — or a Laika-style affair, with depth and darkness to boot (“Kubo and The Two Strings”).
Boasting impressive CG animation courtesy of Sony Imageworks, “Smallfoot” takes a tale reminiscent of “Monsters Inc.” — two groups ignorant and fearful of the other, in this case yetis and humans — and twists it with a clever, topical message about the perils of putting dogma and self-interest ahead of critical thinking and the greater good.
Kids will also love the couple of musical numbers, penned by Karey and his fellow Kirkpatrick brother Wayne, including the narration-and-song opening ‘Perfection’ by Channing Tatum, the inspirational ‘Wonderful Life’ by Zendaya, and the edgy rap ‘Let It Lie’ by Common. To be sure, none of these reach the heights of Disney’s ‘Frozen’ or even ‘Moana’, but they are definitely catchy enough to sustain their own energetically animated diversions. They also give the off-the-beaten voice cast ample opportunity to demonstrate their lesser-seen (or heard?) talents, and we dare say that Tatum, Zendaya and Common pull off the singing parts beautifully. Those familiar with Corden’s ‘Carpool Karaoke’ series will be glad to know he has a quirky number here too, that is based on Queen’s ‘Under Pressure’.
Still, “Smallfoot” is a thoroughly entertaining family film that aspires to be different, backed by appealing protagonists, well-judged comic moments, a thought-provoking message, and a rewarding resolution that steers clear of being saccharine.