SHOULD I SEE IT?
Family films this time of year, on a wide scale, usually pop big numbers and draw a lot of interest from families on what to do.
A robust cast is on display, voicing over a clever story about Yeti actually being scared of humans, and not the other way around.
This will explain that “Zendaya is Meechee” meme you have been stumbling into on the internet.
While it makes sense to see this big and bright on screen, I have to ask if you truly miss anything by just skipping this and waiting for it to become available for home viewing.
Seldom hits the funny bone, often just lands glancing, amusing moments which may grate on people’s nerves.
That “Under Pressure” song remake is…wait for it…wait for it…abominable.
A community of Yeti live in fear of human beings in Smallfoot, a new animated musical, which has already spawned a wacky earworm of a meme (“Zendaya is Meechee,” by YouTube star Gabriel Gundacker) and finds Channing Tatum leading an ensemble of talented voice actors.
Set in a Himalayan village sitting high above the clouds, the Yeti follow a series of commandments and proclamations etched on to stones. They are worn by the Stonekeeper (Common) and the societal norms, laws, and culture of the Yeti are framed around what is written. There seems to be a stone for everything, which begins to raise questions within Migo (Tatum), son of Dorgle (Danny DeVito), whose job is to slingshot himself head-first into a gong to awaken the village, which, in turn, signals the sun to rise into the sky.
Peaceful existence acknowledged, cracks in the Yeti lifestyle begin to occur. Concurrently, and far below the clouds, we meet Percy Patterson (James Corden), a television host desperate to save his nature program. He finds himself in the rumored land of Yeti, and if he is unable to find an actual beast, Percy is ready to force producer Brenda (Yara Shahidi) to put on a fake costume and play the role.
Did I mention that Migo has a crush on Meechee, and Meechee secretly leads an investigative organization dubbed S.E.S – the Smallfoot Evidentiary Society. As Migo begins to question what lies beneath the clouds, he learns that a mythology exists about the “Smallfoot” creature. Recognizing that this is a creature (a/k/a human being) he has previously encountered, Migo says that he can prove they exist.
Smallfoot explores concepts around finding your own voice and developing a personal view of the world. Director and co-writer Karey Kirkpatrick has created a film that delivers a message of asking important questions and learning about things for yourself, and not just being spoonfed by others. The significance and importance of being who you are and the necessity of co-existing with people who may be different than you, are also important elements found within the film.
All of that is great.
However, Smallfoot has a problem trying to figure out how to deliver those heady ideas and themes. Because screenwriters Kirkpatrick and Clare Sera need to make these concepts matter to younger viewers and engage them, the movie is top-heavy from the beginning.
Tatum voices a ton of exposition and an entire movie’s worth of information is sprung on us within the first 5-10 minutes. Then, as we catch our breath, MUSICAL NUMBER!
Sometimes you guys, Smallfoot can really be a lot.
Even with one of the more ill-advised and cringe-inducing remakes ever recorded, Queen and David Bowie’s legendary “Under Pressure,” eventually Smallfoot settles down and works through its paces and becomes quite amusing. Nothing is hard to figure out here and I would imagine even little kids will be able to guess what happens when the Smallfoot population and Yeti populations ultimately come together.
Visually, the film is crisp and colorful, edited well and vividly presented. The voiceover work is fine, solid, but unremarkable. Overall, Smallfoot has some clever, bold, and ambitious ideas it introduces, but struggles to make them truly resonate.
In the end, Migo, Meechee, and the gang will pop a laugh or two, make kids chuckle, but the target audience will likely gloss over the larger concepts at play. That’s a shame, because had Smallfoot fleshed out a better narrative, the movie misses an opportunity to be something really great.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Channing Tatum, James Corden, Zendaya, Common, LeBron James, Danny DeVito, Gina Rodriguez, Yara Shahidi, Ely Henry, Jimmy Tatro, Patricia Heaton, Jack Quaid
Director: Karey Kirkpatrick
Co-Director: Jason Reisig
Written by: Karey Kirkpatrick, Clare Sera (screenplay); John Requa, Glenn Ficarra, Karey Kirkpatrick (story).
Adapted from the book “Yeti Tracks” by Sergio Pablos
Release Date: September 28, 2018