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Smallfoot – Movie Review

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Smallfoot – Movie Review

Rating: C+ (Above Average)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

With its first batch of films, Warner Animation Group has proven itself able to craft inventive animated films with clever humour and storylines and wild visuals. Watching Smallfoot, there is something rather disappointing about how routine the film feels. Director/co-writer Karey Kirkpatrick packs the movie with a ton of energy and sight gags and yet the characters don’t leave much of an impression and the pacing is slightly off. Even the comedy registers only a few laughs. The central message is certainly admirable, but it gets lost in the shuffle. Smallfoot is also a musical for little discernable reason. The film’s storyline feels like it’s not being taken advantage of.

The main theme of Smallfoot about questioning the rules laid down by generations long before is an impressive one for a family film to tackle, especially coming from a major studio. It’s not a subtly delivered message, but it’s neat that the movie chose to go there. There is also potential explored with a Steve Irwin-type television presenter who has lost the initial inspiration for what led him down his career path. He ends up being a far more interesting character to follow than lead Yeti Migo, but is primarily relegated to second fiddle. There is a clever device when the movie cuts to the Yetis’ point-of-view and the humans sound like they are speaking gibberish.

A few other one-liners generate chuckles and the biggest laugh comes courtesy of a jab at video upload times. Smallfoot mostly tends to rely on slapstick gags and the animators at Sony ImageWorks certainly pull off many of them as Migo falls in all kinds of directions. However, the movie’s fast pace eventually becomes too much, especially when we get the standard chase scene in the third act. Padding out the runtime are musical numbers. None of the songs leave an impact and the only tune sure to stay in one’s head afterwards is a version of “Under Pressure” with new lyrics. These aren’t songs that move the plot forward, though the animators give those sequences their all.

What is frustrating about Smallfoot is how unlikeable Migo ends up being. He changes personality and motivations when the plot requires him to and there’s a third act turn that’s particularly contrived. Between Migo and his father, the television presenter,  the Yeti’s tribal leader and a group of Yeti who believe in human existence, the film seems to struggle with juggling all of the major characters. One of the more disappointing things an animated film can do is have you remember the names of the actors more-so than the characters they are voicing. At least a humourous viral video helped me remember the name of Zendaya’s Yeti. It’s Meechee, by the way.

Adapted from Sergio Pablos’s book Yeti Tracks, which isn’t available on Amazon or other online retailers for some reason, Smallfoot’s storyline could have definitely lent itself to a funny and creative animated movie. Yet the film as a whole ends up a rather middle-of-the-road affair with unnecessary musical numbers and a lead character who is difficult to root for. From a design and animation standpoint, the movie has a lot going for it. One wishes there was more to Smallfoot in the story and character departments, especially with the incredible talent involved behind the scenes on this production.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE

Stefan Ellison