Even though it’s only October, it’s officially the start of the festive cinema season that makes long winter evenings more manageable. Smallfoot – a word play on the legend of Bigfoot, the abominable snowman or yeti – is one such family contender, ready for half-term viewing.
This animated musical tale from co-directors Karey Kirkpatrick and Jason Reisig sets the snowy scene in a yeti world high above the clouds, but not too far from our own, with some younger residents possessing the same hopes, dreams and ambitions. The human or ‘Smallfoot’ is the great mystery for the yetis to uncover, as well as a taboo subject.
It takes Migo (voiced by Channing Tatum) to break with tradition and start the ball rolling, after encountering a plane crash and a human falling through the cloud bank. What follows wakes the explorer in the yeti and his contemporaries to discover the truth about mankind, going against years of folklore and misguided laws, literally set in stone.
The film has that familiar, fuzzy, fun feeling to it from the start, with its friendly furry beasts and abundance of snowy terrain and cozy, inviting dwellings – think North Pole with yetis. While not as technically brilliant as Monsters Inc., Migo has the same cuddly animated quality, the more you and the family get to know him, as any latter-day Scully.
Tatum sings life into Migo, making him the fully rounded hero of the hour opposite James Corden’s human called Percy Patterson, a social-media-obsessed, has-been TV presenter who has misplaced loyalties and career goals. Corden’s trademark cheeky banter suits Percy well, even if the Brit actor’s singing leaves a lot to be desired.
What does resonate loud and clear is a note to all about social media saturation in our lives, and how we are missing out on discovering more around us while glued to screens. This, and other morals the family-centric rhetoric delivers are subtly and enjoyably consumed throughout, as not to detract from the familiar adventure of self-discovery, but making us thinking hard about ‘selfie-geddon’.
Migo’s oddball pals who make up the SES (Smallfoot Evidentiary Society) – Meechee (voiced by Zendaya), Kolka (Gina Rodriguez), Gwangi (LeBron James) and Fleem (Ely Henry) – provide the usual well-meaning support for their friend, though are a tad underused in the thick of the adventure into the human world. That said the story focus is the blossoming relationship between yeti and human and their acceptance of each other.
Smallfoot steps out in confident style this season with its topical themes, but frustratingly, treads in the footsteps left over from other such films in the family entertainment genre, never veering off the well-worn path in composition and narrative. Indeed, it makes no apologies for doing so either, and has enough wit and message of tolerance to be appealing to and satisfying for all ages – not to mention the Christmas gift ideas you’ll get as a parent when the merchandise goes on sale.
Smallfoot is in cinemas from Friday the 12th of October