Though it has a certain charm and attempts depth beyond its surface, Smallfoot is a mostly standard animated romp that hones the best of intentions, working more so as a Looney Tunes-inspired slapstick comedy as opposed to the wannabe musical it occasionally attempts to be; sing-a-long Disney this is not!
Based on Sergio Pablos’s Yeti Tracks, Smallfoot bases itself high in the Himalayan mountains where a community of yetis live in a rather peaceful existence believing that nothing but the clouds surround them. Stonekeeper (voiced by rapper Common), a wise lord of sorts, has curated the myth that the yetis are all who exists, and this would all be well and accepted had exuberant Migos (Channing Tatum) not witnessed a plane crash and the tiny human (“Smallfoot” as they refer to them as) that escaped prior to its perishing.
From here on, Migos and his fellow Smallfoot enthusiasts – including love-interest type Meechee (Zendaya) and Kolka (Gina Rodriguez) – seek the truth and risk banishment from their village in a bid to prove humans exist. On the opposite side of this family-friendly spectrum is TV host Percy (James Corden, likely to irk many a viewer with his solo musical number which samples the Queen/Bowie classic Under Pressure) who is hoping a Bigfoot sighting will raise his program’s sinking ratings, and before you can say coincidental plot point the two meet and plan to prove the other’s existence in a manner that won’t see each other harm.
Yes, Smallfoot is one of those “message movies” that hopes to drill into its young audience that judging a book by its cover and someone’s differences from your own doesn’t necessarily equate to being a negative thing. It doesn’t get overly preachy (thankfully) and, aside from Corden’s aforementioned jingle and a heavy-handed rap from Common detailing the yeti’s history, most of the musical numbers (however unnecessary they prove to be) weave into the positive mentality the film wishes to impart; Zendaya flexes her airy vocals on the breezy Wonderful Life, which sounds like the film’s most likely push for Top 40 notice.
Given that most animated tales of late have infused themselves with a sense of humour that older audiences can appreciate, Smallfoot may come off as a little too kid-friendly, as the Karey Kirkpatrick/Clare Sera-penned script never rises above its G-rated temperament. There’s certainly nothing wrong with a children’s film catering to its intended audience, but when we’ve all been spoiled prior with clever animation that mixes wit and whimsy with such ease, a product like Smallfoot can’t help but feel a little ordinary.