[Screen It]

"SMALLFOOT"
(2018) (voices of Channing Tatum, James Corden) (PG)


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QUICK TAKE:
Animated Comedy/Musical: Yeti who live high above the cloud line of a mountain peak must contend with the possibility of the existence of tiny humans a.k.a. smallfeet.
PLOT:
High atop a snowy mountain peak above a thick cloud line where nothing is believed to exist below that lives a harmonious community of yeti. All follow the rules passed down from their ancestors that are written on stones and kept by their current ruler, the Stonekeeper (voice of COMMON). Among the rule followers is Migo (voice of CHANNING TATUM) who one day hopes to follow in the footsteps of his father, Dorgle (voice of DANNY DeVITO), and become the figure responsible for causing the sun to rise by flying through the air each morning and striking a gong with his head.

But one day while practicing that, he ends up on the side of a mountain where he spots a strange object falling from the sky and headed directly at him. He manages to avoid being struck, but is shocked to see, just briefly, a tiny human pilot who's then swept away and down through the clouds by his parachute. Migo rushes back to the village to tell everyone about his sighting of a so-called "smallfoot."

But the Stonekeeper is quick to dispel such talk, and it's not long before Migo finds himself banished from the village by the ruler and his dimwitted enforcer of a son, Thorp (voice of JIMMY TATRO). But that yeti's sister, Meechee (voice of ZENDAYA), the secret leader of a small group of yeti -- that includes Kolka (voice of GINA RODRIGUEZ), Gwangi (voice of LeBRON JAMES), and Fleem (voice of ELY HENRY -- collectively known as the SES (Smallfoot Evidentiary Society) -- wants to know more.

As does Migo who decides to take the risk of lowering himself down through the clouds to look for the smallfoot he previously saw, but he accidentally ends up falling a long way and lands in a village of such people. Among them is nature documentary TV host Percy (voice of JAMES CORDEN) who's fallen on hard times of recent getting anyone's attention with his work, and even wants his producer, Brenda (voice of YARA SHAHIDI), to dress up in a yeti costume to goose his ratings.

He doesn't have to, however, when he spots Migo and freaks out, especially when the huge yeti captures him to take back to his village to prove his existence. He shows the smallfoot to Meechee and her friends, but from that point on it's uncertain how everyone else will react to this potentially unsettling news and how that might rock everything they've long believed in, including their village rules.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
Without rules, there would be chaos, so it's a good thing society somehow managed to come up with them long ago and modify and maintain them ever since. Of course, some are looser than others and some are super strict. But while the former can lead to those supposedly under them getting away with behavior they probably shouldn't, the latter sometimes results in oppression of one degree or another. And one bad example of that is continued suppression of rights or even the way to think, including but not limited to never questioning those rules and facing the consequences if one does.

Movies occasionally delve into those sorts of matters where such strict rules usually involve those in power hiding or suppressing something that bothers them personally (such as the no dancing rule in "Footloose" since we all know what that can lead to) or the painful truth where, to paraphrase a certain military officer in a certain Tom Cruise movie, the general public simply can't handle the truth. One need only look to the likes of "The Planet of the Apes" where said characters were not allowed into the "forbidden zone" since that would prove that the humans -- now viewed as dumb, domesticated animals -- were once intelligent and civilized before blowing themselves up.

The latter (minus the nuke part) somewhat comes to mind when the truth of stern rules is finally revealed in "Smallfoot," a decent and entertaining enough computer-animated comedy/musical that plays off some humans' fascination not with apes per se, but with Sasquatch, a.k.a. Bigfoot.

In it and before that truth and explanation of the rules are revealed we see a community of such yeti living atop a snowy mountain peak that -- according to legend -- is floating atop a bed of thick clouds where nothing but, well, nothingness exists below that and them. And everyone there is aware of the truth because that "fact" and many others have been written in (actually on) stone, and the village's wise leader, appropriately named the Stonekeeper, makes sure everyone knows and follows those rules to a T.

One of those devout followers is our protagonist, Migo (voice of Channing Tatum), who even notes during a song -- yes, this is yet another such flick -- that if one finds the urge to question, such curiosity needs to be pushed down. But when out practicing to one day replace his father (Danny DeVito) as the only figure who makes the sun rise in the morning (via, of all things, a propelled flight through the air followed by a violent head-on collision with a large gong), his trajectory goes astray, he ends up down along the lower edge of their land, and a strange object emitting flames comes flying right at him. He manages to avoid the large plane (which is close to his immense size), but then spots a figure only relegated to folklore among his kind. And that's a so-called "smallfoot" who is quickly whisked away by the wind catching his parachute and yanking him out to and then down through those clouds.

Migo is excited by this sighting and rushes to inform the village, but the Stonekeeper (Common) puts the kibosh on such wild rumors, and with the plane wreckage having slipped off the mountain peak's slope, there's no corroborating evidence. All of which results in our unlikely hero being banished from the community by the ruler and his muscle-bound but dimwitted enforcer son (Jimmy Tatro). But little do any of them realize that the ruler's headstrong daughter (Zendaya) heads up a small and secret organization known as the Smallfoot Evidentiary Society and she and members Kolka (Gina Rodriguez), Gwangi (LeBron James), and Fleem (Ely Henry) want to know more.

At the same time, and down below the clouds, a down-on-his-luck documentary TV host (James Corden) desperately needs something to boost his falling ratings, and he even tries to get his producer (Yara Shahidi) to dress up in a yeti costume to fake such a discovery. Of course, Percy eventually runs into Migo who wants to bring the smallfoot back to his community to prove he wasn't making things up, all while the much, much smaller man is only concerned about the likelihood of being eaten. From that point on, the reasoning for the rules behind all those stones is eventually revealed, some action ensues, and, not surprisingly, everyone -- human and yeti -- appears to live happily ever after.

While not the pinnacle of computer-animated offerings, what's present here works well enough to earn a recommendation. The animation is gorgeous, the songs are decent (if forgettable, as I couldn't hum one now to save my life), the humor works and the characters are fun. And although beyond the setting and character types there's not much that feels that novel in writer/director Karey Kirkpatrick and Clare Sera's screenplay, what's present works and Kirkpatrick and co-director Jason Reisig manage to pull it all together into an entertaining and satisfying whole. Yes, it might just follow the rules of such genre films a bit too much, but in this particular case, you won't mind going along as expected. "Smallfoot" rates as a 6 out of 10.




Reviewed September 13, 2018 / Posted September 28, 2018


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