Smallfoot (2018). A cute, cryptozoological cartoon that needs more comedy

image film small foot yeti upside down

Film review, by Jason Day and Kyle Vevers of Smallfoot, the animated movie about a Yeti who sets out to prove the existence of the mythical Smallfoot (humans). With the voices of Channing Tatum and James Corden.


star rating 3 out of 5 worth watching



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Migo (Channing Tatum) is a Yeti living high in the Himalayas, content in his hidden Yeti community but ambitious to take over from his father (Danny Devito) as the ‘gong ringer’ who wakes everyone up for work.

The community is lorded over by Stonekeeper (Common), who holds a benevolently tight grip on his people’s history and behaviour, rooted in stone tablet depictions of their past that he wears as a cloak and which everyone follows slavishly.

One day Migo discovers a downed pilot, the ‘Smallfoot’/human of legend but whom one of the stone’s says does not exist. Migo, helped by an underground movement determined to prove Smallfoot is real, determines to find him and enlighten the Yetis.

Review, by Kyle Vevers and @Reelreviewerimage film poster smallfoot yeti

Out of the mouths of babes…

When reviewing animated movies (not my preferred genre), I always scan the audience for the reactions of the younger members. Children, I have found, have a fine ear and eye for what constitutes the perfect animation.

Needless to say, if I were the producer of Smallfoot, I would be concerned about my movie’s box office performance, considering the near death silence during the screening I attended with my seven year old nephew.

image film smallfoot yeti upside down

Smallfoot (2018) smartly up-ends human myth-making. Image: Warner Bros.

I’ve watched animated films with him before and, transfixed, he usually whispers when something impressive happens. Here he sat duly mesmerised, but hardly whispered at all.

Was he actually mesmerised…or bored? He shifted constantly after the first half hour. Did he need to go to the toilet? “No” he said firmly, but continued jiggling apace in his seat. Had boredom now given way to agitated frustration?

Children, especially those as certain of their own minds as my nephew and niece (age 5), are not stupid and are as effective a barometer of entertainment quality as any adult.

I asked him afterward for a few comments about Smallfoot, to go in to this review and help qualify my thoughts. He steadfastly refused to take part.

Later as we had dinner, he animatedly chatted about what he thought of The Greatest Showman, a film he said he loved and I gave 4/5 stars to.

As we had a fairly deep conversation about the merits of that film, I wondered if he and I were cinematic kindred spirits?

We completely side-stepped talking about Smallfoot, a movie he said he “didn’t really remember” enough of, to talk about Showman a film he recalled almost every scene from, even the Never Enough musical number. He didn’t think the word never was a good one to use in a lyric.

What sweet, informed insight I thought.

No, he continued…he thought ‘fart’ was better.

OK, so maybe our appreciation of cinema isn’t quite reciprocated (yet), but his aversion to discussing Smallfoot and the general quiet in the cinema says it all.

NB: I must note here that Smallfoot is far removed from being a bad movie.

The animation is colourful and creative, the Yeti population depicted not as a generic identical type, but as a distant species with culture and history. They are even racially diverse within their secluded community.

image film small foot yeti conversation

Yeti yack…The Abominable Snowmen have intelligent conversation and culture in Smallfoot (2018). Image: Warner Bros.

The narrative smartly up-ends human legend-creation and makes us the mythical, hidden species, the Yeti seeing themselves as the centre of everything.

The opening sequence which explains how the Yeti’s world was created and Common’s song ‘Let it Lie’ in which he tells Migo why the Yeti must always be kept apart from humans (“barbarous…savages”) are inventive. (Tatum also sings in his voice…and good it is, too).

Likewise, the Pacman chase through the human town’s streets is creative and funny, but fleeting.

image film smallfoot yeti camp fire

Burning desire to talk…Migo explains that humans aren’t a myth in Smallfoot (2018). Image: Warner Bros.

It’s that fleeting feel that is the main problem I have with Smallfoot. It not that the film isn’t clever or does not makes you laugh. It’s that it isn’t clever, funny or ‘special’ enough.

Most of the songs are duration-fillers, the jokes are mostly unnoticeable and the storyline, despite some excellent points, isn’t attention-grabbing enough.

There were a couple of moments that made me chuckle and Common’s musical number was very good, but I wasn’t dazzled or intrigued by Smallfoot and, clearly, neither were the children sat around me.

We voted with our small feet and say it’s OK, but it made no great strides.

For more, see the official Warner Bros. website.

Cast & credits

Directors: Karey Kirkpatrick, Jason Reisig. 1hr 36mins (96mins). Warner Bros./Warner Animation/Zaftig Films. (U)

Producers: Glenn Ficcara, John Requa.
Writers: Karey Kirkpatrick, Clare Sera.
Music: Karey Kirkpatrick, Wayne Kirkpatrick.
Sets: Ronald A. Kurniawan.

(With the voices of) Channing Tatum, James Corden, Zendaya, Common, LeBron James, Danny Devito, Gina Rodriguez, Yara Shahidi, Ely Henry, Jimmy Tatro, Patricia Heaton, Justin Roiland, Jack Quaid.


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