By Ceara Kelly, Staff Writer
[Warner Bros.; 2018]
Oh isn’t that cute — A movie about Yeti’s calling humans “smallfoots” and treating them like cryptids. It must be all about learning to see from the other sides viewpoint, right? Wrong. Smallfoot, is a surprisingly politically charged musical and, despite what early reviews say, is not as nearly as predictable as it may seem.
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Migo (Channing Tatum) is an unassuming Yeti following the laws of his little Yeti village (which are quite literally written in stone as you’re repeatedly reminded in case you missed the classic prop humor the first time around). He wants nothing more than to inherit his father, Dorgle’s (Danny Devito) job and smash his head daily into a gong to wake up the sky snail. Who knew that would catapult him into the world of government cover-ups of the once believed myth of Smallfoots.
Children’s films usually have some underlying message of self-discovery or the danger of fearing the unknown, but it’s rare to have one as blunt as this. The ideas of ignorance being bliss and blind faith are shot down in the upbeat opening number “Perfection”, in which the two are compared to believing in a flat earth. Genocide is outright named as a villain leading Migo nearly commit unspeakable acts to uphold his government’s lies.
Why the movie was not advertised as a musical is beyond odd. The music is delightful and naturally plays into the theme. Zendaya’s character, Meeche, sings a song all about discovering the beauty of the world. When it was released as a single, it seemed like any other vague pop song (Go find adventure. Learn from it. The world is full of wonder.), but instead it’s an upbeat pop ballad begging people to open their eyes and question the news and facts they are being fed by our current government. Stonekeeper’s song explains the danger’s of the fear mongering the current administration constantly is spewing, while also revealing why a not so great voice actor such as Common was cast.
Aside from the surprisingly anti-establishment message, Smallfoot just happened to be adorable, just like the tiny squeaks the smallfoot made while speaking to the Yetis. The Yeti design was lovely and diverse, and despite taking place in a very monochromatic mountain there manages to be beautiful colors and lighting throughout the film. The voice acting is surprisingly good aside from the aforementioned Common incident. Even Lebron James manages to nail his character as the village crazy man. It’s also just nice to watch him without distressed sports fans screaming at the television.
The movie does have one near-fatal flaw. Despite being genuinely funny most of the time, one joke fell painfully flat. Hearing James Cordon use the word “clout” in a remix of Under Pressure is truly a crime. It’s lucky it nailed all the other millennial aimed jokes or it could have easily fallen into the trap of forced relatability like so many other films.
Smallfoot is a surprisingly relevant film in today’s political climate and supplies both kids and whatever adult is stuck taking them with an important lesson: While laws are important and can help maintain order, an unjust law is not one that should be followed, and to learn from the world rather than fear it, or there will be nothing but unjust laws.