Aida Vucic | 20/09/2018
A charming retelling of the legend of Bigfoot, with a slight twist and a powerful message.
Smallfoot tells the story of Migo (voiced by Channing Tatum), a yeti who has a run in with a human, or what he affectionally refers to as a Smallfoot. His enthusiasm at his recent discovery isn't shared by his fellow yeti community, who are skeptical of his story. Unwavering in his belief, Migo is exiled from the community and seeks to exonerate himself by finding the Smallfoot and bringing it back to the community.
Fortunately for him, not all the members of the community are as skeptical of the existence of the smallfoot, and he finds himself teaming up with the S.E.S (Smallfoot exists, society) made up of Meechee (Zendaya), Kolka (Gina Rodriguez), Gangi (LeBron James) and Fleem (Ely Henry). Amazingly enough, Migo does make contact with a Smallfoot; Percy (James Cordon), a once successful conservationist, who's lost his way and is looking for any opportunity to reclaim his former glory.
Smallfoot is an animated musical that, whilst not on par with the likes of Frozen or Moana, is a joyful movie which also intertwines political and generational issues. There are nice touchstones around the concept of the importance of facts and knowledge, which is particularly prescient in the Trump-era war on media and truth. Smallfoot encourages us to seek out the truth, and pursue increased knowledge, rather than retreating behind what we know. In this way, it tells the story of human fear and what lengths we will go to to avoid disrupting the peace.
What is also nice is that this isn’t Smallfoot’s only message. The movie also manages to explore the advent of technological progress, and the ever-present fear of technology making us redundant. Migo’s Dad, convinced for decades that if he doesn’t ring the gong the sun will not rise and shocked to learn it will rise anyway, asks Migo “But I’m the gong ringer. I ring the gong. If I’m not the gong ringer, what am I”. It’s one of a number of interesting questions that Smallfoot manages to pose, and while this animated extravaganza doesn’t really make any pains to solve these issues, or advocate solutions in our everyday lives, it certainly goes a long way to provide some metaphorical and emotional comfort.
Though the songs may not be as infectious as those in Frozen and Moana, the lyrics still include a strong message. It may be lost on the younger audience, but will likely resonate with their chaperones, who are also sure to get a kick out of Common’s rap piece.
When delivering some key exposition in song form (as these movies are so wont to do), Common’s Stonekeeper breaks the norm and performs in a Hamilton-esque hip hop style that truly kicks the film into a different notch. It speaks very much to the varying quality of the piece in the general. The first third is stunningly average, particularly the duet between Zendaya and Tatum. The middle third, where the Smallfoot is found, core questions are uncovered and Common performs this piece, is amazing, and well worth the price of admission, and the final third coasts by on the middle’s good will.
It’s a thoroughly uneven movie viewing experience, but not one that is unenjoyable in the slightest. And while it may raise some questions from young ones, it might also help reassure some of the adults in the audience about our place in the world.
Smallfoot will be sure to leave an impression, long after watching.