Occasionally poignant ‘Smallfoot’ trips over its story

By Andy Moser

Grade: C+

Rated PG for some action, rude humor, and thematic elements.

Running Time: 1 hour and 36 minutes

Directed by: Karey Kirkpatrick

Screenplay by: Karey Kirkpatrick and Clare Sera

Starring: Channing Tatum, James Corden, Zendaya, Common, LeBron James

 The shoe has been placed on the other foot, so to speak. Director Karey Kirkpatrick’s (Over the Hedge) film about a group of curious yetis in search of the legendary “smallfoot” (we know them as human beings) is occasionally quite charming. It’s a slick-looking animated musical adventure, but unfortunately, its kicks are only as big as the title suggests.

Our village of abominable snow people has crafted the perfect societal structure to maintain their quality of life amidst the icy tundra they call home. Inscribed on a myriad of sacred stones is their history, along with a set of rules, regulations and explanations for all things questionable. The stones are their reference guide to life — their holy book, if you will. In keeping with our not-so-subtle religious allegory, the village has its own interpreter of these stones, aptly titled the Stonekeeper, commandingly voiced by Common. Curiosity is ritualistically repressed in this community, but the law of the land is called into question when Migo (Channing Tatum) has an encounter with the mythical smallfoot. With no evidence to support his claim, Migo is given the cold shoulder and is subsequently banished from the village. Getting some help from a small team of eager myth busters, Migo sets out to find a human being to bring back to his fellow yetis while reconciling his own challenged beliefs.

The thematic material certainly has a place in this story and, at times, fulfills its potential to be timely while maintaining a rich complexity. The answers aren’t always straightforward, challenging the movie’s viewers to think critically about the characters and their decisions, providing a sound basis for quality family conversations afterward.

Those conversations may just provide a necessary re-centering of the movie for kids. As the third act grows crowded and avalanches to its end, the message can get a bit lost. It feels as if there are simply too many things going on; too many things needing to be resolved and a growing impatience to resolve them. Kirkpatrick’s grip on the story loosens, and the result drags everything out to the point where you lose interest and the slapstick gags get tired and overworked. Kirkpatrick’s musical also uses its music somewhat sparingly, often opting for traditional storytelling instead of relying on its upbeat, glittery pop tunes to carry the story’s momentum forward. It can feel like a lot to get through, and it lacks the emotional attachment that has powered Pixar movies to success at equal or longer running times.

In all likelihood, it’s not something that will be remembered or nostalgically cherished in the future, but that doesn’t mean it has nothing to offer. Smallfoot still has some interesting thoughts worth sharing and some fun moments to be had along the way, even if it won’t quite resonate with people of all shoe sizes. The smaller ones, though, should hang in there just fine.

 

About Andy Moser

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