By TK and Wee-K | Film | October 1, 2018 |
By TK and Wee-K | Film | October 1, 2018 |
Smallfoot starts out with a clever enough premise - the Yeti of the Himalayas live far above the clouds, believing they’re the only sentient creatures and that humans are a myth. A small group of believers are mocked by their fellow Yeti for being quacks and crazies, until one of them, played by Channing Tatum, encounters a real human. His curiosity piqued, he descends below the clouds and finds that there’s a whole undiscovered world down there, much to the chagrin of his village.
I’ll admit, for the first 20 minutes, Smallfoot felt like it was going to be a dud. The first jokes never really landed, the musical numbers felt rote and uninspired, and while the concept was interesting enough, the execution seemed to be stumbling. Even my six-year-old son got fidgety quickly, a surefire sign that things weren’t going well (he’s got surprisingly good instincts - this is the kid who asked to see Sherlock Gnomes and 25 minutes in asked if we could watch something else). But, he had a popcorn and sour watermelon slices to keep him in his seat, so we soldiered on through it.
I’m glad we did, because despite its slow start, Smallfoot ended up being far more enjoyable than I’d expected. It’s got a damn fine cast - along with Tatum, there’s Zendaya, Common, Gina Rodriguez, Patricia Heaton, Yara Shahidi, James Cordon, and - believe it or not - Lebron James. The cast all does great work, and while James felt like gimmick casting, I’ll admit that the big guy has a gift for both comedy (as evidenced by him being the best part of Trainwreck) and voice work. It’s a fun, breezy diversion - not likely to be one of the animated greats, but certainly an amiable enough way to spend a Saturday afternoon with your kid. The songs aren’t particularly memorable, but they work well enough. Once the Yetis encounter the human world, everything starts to shine a little brighter and the film picks up speed. It becomes fun, resulting in some gentle chuckles from the grownups and some outright cackles from the kids.
That said, what sets it apart is that it’s a film with a clear and quite lovely message. Sure, there’s the usual children’s movie message of believing in yourself and all that. But if you look deeper, there’s a surprisingly nuanced message about xenophobia and trust, about not judging people because of their looks or what you’ve heard, and instead having faith in what they believe is right and not necessarily what they’re told. It’s a sweet and uplifting message, told without too much treacle, and it felt genuinely appreciated, especially these days.
But don’t take my word for it. I asked my son, Wee-K, for his opinion over cookies later that afternoon:
TK: So, what did you think?
WK: It was GREAT. It was really funny!
TK: What was your favorite part?
WK: The part where the Yeti jumped through the clouds and went flying down the mountain! And then the part where the BIG Yeti fell through the sky and left a HUGE hole in the snow. And the singing was good. And then when the Yetis were trying to hide behind the buildings in the people’s city.
TK: Those were good parts. What was your favorite song?
WK: … I don’t really remember them. But I remember liking them!
TK: Fair enough. Do you think this movie had a good message?
WK: What do you mean?
TK: Like… did it have a lesson? Is there something important about life that you learned?
WK: Oh. Let me think.
WK: OK. I think it teached us that we shouldn’t not like people just because they’re different. And that the Yetis didn’t trust people because of stuff that happened long ago, but really the people were scared of the Yetis too, and that you should just talk to people.
TK: That’s… a very good way of putting it, buddy.
WK: Thanks. Can I wear my “Yeti for bed” pajamas tonight?
TK: Ahhh, bugs, those don’t fit anymore, remember?
WK: (crestfallen) Oh. Right.
TK: But you can wear your astronaut PJs again. Or your Incredibles ones?
WK: (brightening) Oh yeah! OK, great.
TK: OK, one more question about the movie. What would you say to people who haven’t seen it?
WK: You should tell the people at your work that they should go see this one. It’s not scary like the other movie you saw, so they’d like it.
TK: The people at my…? Oh. OH. So, I don’t write these movie reviews for the people at my work, bud. It’s a completely different job.
WK: (puzzled) You don’t? Then who reads them?
TK: Um. Anyone who comes across it on the internet?
WK: Anyone in the WORLD?
TK: Well, that’s a little ambitious but sure, it’s possible.
WK: OH! In that case, you should say that EVERYONE should see it because it’s funny and there’s singing and Yetis and the big guy falls and makes a huge hole in the snow and OH YEAH there’s snow.
Header Image Source: Warner Animation