REVIEW: Smallfoot

Yo, even in animated movies, Danny DeVito’s character has to be short and balding. Go figure…

A friendly, good-hearted yeti named Migo manages to one day stumble across mankind for which he and his race once believed to be myths.

Smallfoot may be a cute and cuddly animated comedy for kids, but also manages to be a surprisingly deep look into ideas concerning faith and beliefs in a society, consequent creations of urban legends, the corruption of power, law and order, integration of races and a take on some of the most well-known philosophical queries in history… yeah, and it’s also a movie starring Channing Tatum as a yeti with the tagline being the cringe “Yeti or Not, Here They Come”.

Now fair warning, Smallfoot is a musical. Trust me, I had know idea the movie dabbled in song and dance but as soon as the flick began, it showed its true colours. And oh man, did I loathe the musical aspects of this movie. Sure, Smallfoot caters to a child audience, and when you have Zendaya on board, you’re going to use her vocal talents as much as possible, but yeesh, a musical about yetis… seriously? The music played like the filmmakers needed to insert them into the narrative to extend the runtime from being just short film length. One of my main squabbles with Smallfoot would have to be, without a doubt, the music. And it’s not just the inclusion of the music that annoyed me, it’s also how pop and radio-like the music was. The songs were just so bland with no uniqueness like The Nightmare Before Christmas or Beauty and the Beast or even The Lion King. The music was just ‘there’. But whatever – kids love that sh*t right? So I won’t get too worked up about it.

I also heavily disliked the voice talent in this movie. I mean, Channing Tatum, Zendaya and Danny DeVito were fine, I guess, but James Corden (here we go again)… I just don’t know why he keeps getting cast in these movies. At this rate, High-Five from The Emoji Movie, Peter Rabbit from Peter Rabbit and Percy from Smallfoot are all the same bland, uncharismatic character with the same monotone voice. There’s just nothing there in Corden’s voice – NOTHING. Yet, the biggest atrocity in the voice cast would have to be the casting of Common as the elder yeti chief, the Stonekeeper. Why in the world anyone thought Common’s voice would fit a wise, elderly chief is something else entirely. When you have Common’s smooth and suave voice coming out of basically yeti-Gandalf, it just does not work on any level. Honestly, I think the only reason Common was cast was because the Stonekeeper gets a musical number a little over midway through the movie where he raps and throws down a sick beat… I mean Common raps, so that’s the logical casting reason, right? AM I RIGHT? Yeah, I reckon I’m right.

But…

(And there is always a ‘but’).

Smallfoot was not all goofs and puns, as what I said before about the film’s philosophies and ideas were true. Smallfoot is surprisingly a smart tale.

smallfoot_main
(Amidi 2017)

With music creating a fluffy distraction for children, Smallfoot peers into a deeper exploration of themes as intense as Plato’s allegory of the cave – I’m not even joking. There was a certain point in this movie where something clicked inside me, and I thought to myself “huh, Smallfoot knows its ancient Greek philosophy?”.

If you do not know Plato’s cave allegory, to quickly summarise it: the philosopher queried if three people living in a cave perceive the shadows of everything outside, on the cave walls, as reality, then when one of these people leave the cave to find the real is in fact people and structures creating said shadows, the people inside the cave will not believe said person’s claims and instead bathe in eternal ignorance. So basically what Plato tried summarising is that people choose to believe a lie to live an easier life in favour of learning the truth and to forever be questioning reality. As the saying goes, “ignorance is bliss”, and we see this carried out in films like The Truman Show, Shutter Island and, most famously, The Matrix. So how does Smallfoot fit into all of this?

Well the movie is not exactly subtle in its exploration of ideas, but in saying that, it is a children’s animation, so it can be cut some slack. However, the story of Smallfoot almost perfectly aligns with Plato’s allegory all too well. The yetis live in an isolated valley (similar to the cave) and they all believe in a fake truth, that being the stones (similar to the shadows), though when one of them stumbles out of their home to learn the truth about their world, they face scorn and backlash for threatening their people with a shocking truth that has the power to shatter their comforting lie. It all fits.

I am not saying Smallfoot is on the level of The Matrix or that Migo the yeti is as engaging as Neo, but what I am saying is that Smallfoot does have the capacity to teach children valuable lessons rather than just filling the youngster’s minds with Zendaya’s sin- oh, wait. Smallfoot has the guts to question whether belief in a set faith or idea is truly beneficial, or whether you can even call it ‘living’ if you remain ignorant to what you know to be true. Smallfoot explores how a society works when their beliefs are threatened and the curtains are pulled down around them; how people will create urban legends and mythology to explain the unexplainable. The film notes how far one will go, even by corrupting their power and identity, to prove what they believe is right. Smallfoot is almost like the Illuminati of 2018 children’s animation movies… which is kinda weird, kinda specific, but let’s just roll with it.

Importantly though, Smallfoot does teach children the value of healthy integration and the importance of identity. You have to hand it to this film, Smallfoot really had no reason to investigate such raw thematics (and yes, it is quite possible the movie could have just accidently stumbled upon said themes) but the film’s ability to do so allowed Smallfoot to excel in fields, dare I say it, out of its genre’s comfort zone.

Smallfoot is not a classic in the making – it has too much flaws to be – but, for the time being, it is a graceful, surprise feature that seemingly stumbled upon a fortune and spent it wisely. You can choose to live in a world where this is just another dumb cartoon, but ignorance is bliss… would you not much rather prefer to see the truth, that Smallfoot, is really not that bad.

Smallfoot is a bloody… CRUSADE!!

 

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