Smallfoot (2018) Review

For my money, the definitive filmed adaptation of the legendary Yeti is The Goodies’ episode “Big Foot” but this tale of a tribe of Yetis living in secret on a Himalyan mountaintop might just come a close second (Wampas don’t count).

Migo (Channing Tatum) is happy living in his village where all Yetis live under the guidance of the Stonekeeper (Common), the keeper of Yeti traditions and laws. He’s apprenticed to his father Dorgle, who has the sacred duty of ringing the gong each morning to make the sun rise, a task he proudly accomplishes by use of a giant catapult, an enormous gong and his stone-helmeted head. When the time comes for Migo to try his hand at summoning the great glowing sky snail, he’s distracted by the sight of the Stonekeeper’s daughter Meechee (Zendaya) and misses the gong, landing on the snow-covered mountainside. As he is about to make his way back to the village, he encounters a human who has survived a plane crash. Although the human escapes, Migo runs back to the village to tell of what he saw but Yeti law is clear: humans do not exist and so the Stonekeeper banishes Migo from the village. Determined to prove his innocence, Migo sets out to capture a ‘Small Foot’.

Warner Brothers’ latest venture into the animated feature arena is a breezy and bright retelling of the Renaissance as the forces of Yeti orthodoxy struggle to suppress the truth from getting out, with a dash of reiterating the environmental impact of human colonisation. Not that it’s in any way remotely heavy or downbeat, except perhaps during the Stonekeeper’s doom-laden musical historical lecture. The rest of the film is content to indulge in snow-bound slapstick which is sure to delight the target audience for this frosty fun fest. The kids in the audience I saw it with – including my own – laughed hard and laughed often at the antics on screen and I chuckled a fair bit too.

The character design is delightful, even if one or two of the characters were clearly designed with their digital artist’s showreel in mind. Both the small details – like the variously textured yeti fur – and the larger world-building background antics of the Yeti colony are packed with clever little touches designed to reward repeated viewing. There are a few musical numbers too, even if they’re the aural equivalent of ice sculptures: pretty enough to look at/ listen too but prone to melting away without a trace after they’re no longer needed.

The voice cast is good value too, with Tatum and Zendaya especially giving their fursonas plenty of character without ever going over the top. In what must have been a stretch for him, James Corden voices a cynically shameless tv presenter who will sacrifice his dignity, integrity and morality in the desperate quest for ratings and attention. But even he gets caught up in the good-natured goofballery of the plot and, refreshingly, there’s no actual bad guy; the villains of the piece are ignorance and fear.

Leading the charge into the forthcoming half-term holidays, “Smallfoot” is great fun for the kids and no chore at all for the parents: a definite win-win.