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Smallfoot Movie Review

Smallfoot (2018) movie poster Smallfoot

Theatrical Release: September 28, 2018 / Running Time: 109 Minutes / Rating: PG

Directors: Karey Kirkpatrick / Writers: Karey Kirkpatrick (screen story & screenplay); Clare Sera (screenplay); John Requa, Glenn Ficarra (screenplay); Sergio Pablos (book Yeti Tracks)

Voice Cast: Channing Tatum (Migo), James Corden (Percy Patterson), Zendaya (Meechee), Common (Stonekeeper), LeBron James (Gwangi), Danny DeVito (Dorgle), Gina Rodriguez (Kolka), Yara Shahidi (Brenda), Ely Henry (Fleem), Jimmy Tatro (Thorp), Patricia Heaton (Mama Bear), Justin Roiland (Garry), Jack Quaid (Pilot), Sarah Baker (Soozie's Mom)

 

For being the studio that long stood as Disney's only real competition in the world of theatrical animation (with their Looney Tunes shorts), Warner Bros. has been slow to figure out the game in the modern world. As their overall output has exceeded others in volume, they've had their share of animated features over the years, some commercially successful (the mixed medium Space Jam,
the acquired Pokemon: The First Movie) and some critically acclaimed (The Iron Giant, Corpse Bride). But even when computer animation became the standard around the turn of the century and then became ubiquitous around 2006, Warner never established a unified brand to compare to the likes of Pixar, DreamWorks, and Blue Sky.

In the ten plus years since, Universal has founded their commercially formidable Illumination Entertainment and Sony Pictures Animation has cemented its relevance at least in terms of the bottom line. Warner, meanwhile, was not able to turn varied movies like the Oscar-winning blockbuster Happy Feet and the holiday tradition The Polar Express into a trusted brand of family entertainment. Four years ago, the studio got serious about the subject, establishing Warner Animation Group (WAG) with the surprisingly inventive and lovable The Lego Movie. Since then, Warner has given us two spin-off Lego movies (one a triumph, one less so), the middling Storks, and this summer's clever but TV-spawned, 2D, and thus underattended Teen Titans GO! To the Movies. Now, we get Smallfoot, an original standalone movie that feels like a minor diversion until The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part finally arrives in February.

Smallfoot hails from director Karey Kirkpatrick (DreamWorks' Over the Hedge, Eddie Murphy's Imagine That), who shares story credit with the offbeat duo of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Bad Santa, 2005's Bad News Bears, Focus) and screenplay credit with Clare Sera (Blended). The four of them all draw some amount of inspiration from a book called Yeti Tracks by Spanish author Sergio Pablos, whose biggest claim to fame is conceiving the story that would become Illumination's Despicable Me.

In Warner Animation Group's "Smallfoot", a banished Yeti named Migo (voiced by Channing Tatum) befriends human nature documentarian Percy Patterson (voiced by James Corden).

This film is set in a community of yeti up in the clouds that is governed largely by tradition. Our protagonist is Migo (voiced by Channing Tatum), who is about to succeed his diminutive father Dorgle (Danny DeVito) as the daily ringer of the gong. According to legend, which is transcribed in a series of infallible stones cited regularly by the powers that be, namely chief Stonekeeper (Common), the gong has to be banged every morning so that the great snail can light the sky. In other words, a sunrise. The yeti have a strange understanding of their universe, reliant far more on unquestioned religious doctrine than science and observation.

One day, Migo encounters a human pilot whose plane crash lands in the clouds. It's a stunning revelation: the long-fabled "Smallfoot" really does exist. But the pilot disappears and soon too his plane. Migo's first-person account gets him banished from the community by the closed-minded Stonekeeper, who regularly reminds his kind to bury any questions they have deep inside them.

Banishment leads Migo to discover the Smallfoot Evidentiary Society (or S.E.S.), a small group of Smallfoot believers led by Meechee (Zendaya), Migo's lavender-braided unapproached crush. Populated by wacky oddballs (voiced by NBA star LeBron James and others), the S.E.S. helps launch Migo beneath the clouds, where they theorize Smallfoots must live. They're right, of course. And soon, Migo meets Percy Patterson (James Corden), a nature documentarian desperate to find an audience in the face of eroding ratings.

Though they don't speak each other's language and have wildly different priorities, truth-seeking Migo and opportunistic Percy forge a friendship as the Bigfoot attempts to bring the Smallfoot to his home and prove to everyone they really do exist.

Migo's curiosity gets him welcomed into the Smallfoot Evidentiary Society (S.E.S.) comprised of Gwangi, Meechee, Kolka, and Fleem.

With musical numbers and big, broad, furry characters, Smallfoot looks like a pretty peppy family comedy. Its narrative, though, is surprisingly dark and bleak. One assumes that Kirkpatrick, a seasoned vet with thirty years of screenwriting credits that include Chicken Run, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and The Spiderwick Chronicles, wanted to imbue this
film with the kind of adult-oriented social commentary that made Zootopia stand out. But the results here are far less timely, thought-provoking, and generally entertaining. Whereas Zootopia was fun for all ages, whether or not the blink-inducing themes landed with you, Smallfoot feels too talky and dark for kids but not substantive enough to fully engage adults.

In terms of visuals, music, and wit, this is a passable big mainstream family film. It can't withstand comparison to anything but Pixar's worst, but judged against contemporary feature animation as a whole, it's a middle of the road effort. It's better than Storks and Blue Sky's Ice Age sequels, but not worthy of any Best Animated Feature conversation and not likely to make a lasting impression on anyone but young kids who see it on the big screen in one of the few weeks it's in wide release.

Related Reviews:
Warner Animation Group: Teen Titans GO! To the Movies The Lego Batman Movie The Lego Movie The Lego Ninjago Movie Storks
Now in Theaters: The House with a Clock in its Walls Alpha Searching Kin
Screenplay by Karey Kirkpatrick: The Spiderwick Chronicles The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy James and the Giant Peach
From the Mind of Sergio Pablos: Despicable Me | Danny DeVito's Voice: Space Jam Hercules
Yetis in Film: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Monsters, Inc. A Goofy Movie
Screenplay by Clare Sera: Blended

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Reviewed September 26, 2018.



Text copyright 2018 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2018 Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Animation Group, and Zaftig Films.
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