Smallfoot: Likeable, zany family movie occasionally goes deep

Review: Channing Tatum, Danny DeVito and rest of the voice cast prove capable

Channing Tatum voices Migo, the star character in Smallfoot

Film Title: Smallfoot

Director: Karey Kirkpatrick

Starring: Channing Tatum, James Corden, Zendaya, Common, LeBron James, Danny DeVito. Gina Rodriguez, Yara Shahidi, Ely Henry, Jimmy Tatro

Genre: Animation

Running Time: 96 min

Fri, Oct 12, 2018, 05:00

   

Smallfoot, an inversion of the bigfoot myth in which abominable snow persons are terrified to learn that humans are real, does not get off to a flying start.

Channing Tatum may possess a sizable pair of shoulders, but even might have easily buckled under the weight of the film’s elaborate mythology, which he gamely runs through in the opening gambit.

Pay close attention. The yeti, under the guidance of village elder Stonekeeper (Common) and his many ancient runes, believe that their mountain is held up by mammoths and that nothing exists beneath the cloud-line.

Tatum voices Migo, a cheerful, enthusiastic bigfoot who cannot wait for the day when he will take over from his dad (Danny DeVito), in catapulting himself, head-first, into the daily, giant gong that awakens the sun snail from its slumbers. Or something like that. And then everybody starts singing. Hang on? These are musical yetis?

When Migo witnesses a plane crash and encounters a human survivor, his snowy world is turned upside down. He soon falls in with a gaggle of conspiracy nuts led by the chief’s daughter (Zendaya), who believe that maybe, just maybe, there’s something out there. This is not a popular view. Banished for heresy, Migo discovers that something is James Corden, essaying an annoying television personality. Insert your own punchline.    

Occasionally, you can hear the script – co-authored by Clare Sera and director and veteran screenwriter Karey Kirkpatrick (James and the Giant Peach, The Spiderwick Chronicles) – creaking to ensure that the hero’s journey adheres to three-act beats.

But once Smallfoot gets into its stride, it’s a likeable enough, zany family fable. The creature design is appealing even if the human characters, as is often the case in CG animation, don’t really cut it. The voice cast are capable. The theme – your leaders are lying to you – is a welcome swerve for a kids’ film, as is a rap number performed by Common that rhymes: “Over time/We surmised/We were facing genocide.” Deep.