"Some Messages to Think About "
SMALLFOOT is an animated comedy adventure with a clear premise about a Yeti whose whole world thrown upside when he finds a “smallfoot” human, who, he’s always been told, doesn’t exist. SMALLFOOT has its funny moments, with some good musical numbers, but it has some subversive messages that should concern media-wise parents.
Migo (Channing Tatum) lives in the yeti village on the peak of a mountain in the Himalayas, completely surrounded by clouds. In a quippy song, the Yetis introduce their society by singing about how their world came into existence, and how their mountain top is all there is and anything below the clouds is nothingness. They know this because it’s written on the “stones,” which are kept by the “stonekeeper,” the leader of the Yetis, who wears a robe made up of all the stones and laws passed down through generations. Some of the stones say humans don’t exist. Others say the sun won’t rise unless they hit a giant gong every morning, a job Migo’s father proudly does and will pass down to Migo. If something doesn’t make sense, or if they have questions or doubts, they’re told to suppress those questions. Everyone has a role to play in the society to keep it going, and no one is ever allowed to say the stones are wrong.
One day, Migo finds himself on the outskirts of the Yeti village. A plane crashes and a human emerges. The human and Migo can’t understand each other, and the pilot’s parachute whisks the human away and down below the clouds. Shocked, and a little scared he’s found a “smallfoot” when the stones said they didn’t exist, Migo tries to convince the other Yetis, but the Stonekeepeer (voiced by Common) says it’s not true and orders Migo to be banished from the village until he admits he’s lying.
Outside the village, Migo is approached by four other Yetis who believe him and have a club called S.E.S. that encourages asking questions and discovery. Migo is surprised to find out that the S.E.S is led by Meechee, the Stonekeeper’s daughter, whom Migo has a crush on for a long time. With Migo now a part of their group, they hatch a plan to send him beneath the clouds to find proof that smallfoots exist.
Meanwhile, in the land of humans beneath the mountain, Percy is a human TV personality shooting a nature documentary. Once a big deal on TV, Percy has become somewhat of a joke and is looking for his next big break. His producer, Brenda, thinks Percy is trying too hard to look for fame and that he should hold onto his integrity. When Percy runs into the pilot, who saw Migo and hears about the Yeti sighting, he gets the idea to fake a Yeti sighting on camera and upload it online so it can go viral.
However, Percy does run into a real Yeti, Migo, and, after a brief period of miscommunications and thinking the other is going to kill them, the two form a bond. Through hand signals, Percy agrees to let Migo take him to the Yeti village, all the while Percy is filming it on his phone with the hope of it boosting his career. Will the Yeti village believe smallfoots are real now?
SMALLFOOT is really a cute idea and has a great cast of voices and some really fun musical numbers. The humor is off and on, with some funny moments, but rarely any hilarious moments. One of the funnier scenes involves Percy, voiced by James Corden, singing his own lyrics to Queen’s “Under Pressure.” Some children will get a kick out of the LOONEY TUNES style slapstick moments. Sadly, though, the movie’s heart gets lost in some subversive messaging.
The movie’s core asks the question, “What if everything you were told to believe turns out is wrong?” On the surface, it’s not a bad theme. The movie, through characters like Migo and Meechee, encourages discovery, exploration of the truth and science. These are all terrific messages. However, the Yeti society is the complete opposite of these messages, and oppresses any new thought or discovery. A few minutes into the movie, the media-wise viewer notices there are an uncanny amount of similarities made between the Yeti society and Christianity. Christians believe that the Bible is the inherent truth and voice of God given to us, so we can live better lives.
Viewers also could take a political interpretation of the Yeti society as well, comparing it to an isolationist, communist government that’s built on fear, and a requirement of its citizens to contribute to the “machine.” This parallel would have been more acceptable, but it’s less likely.
[SPOILERS FOLLOW] By the end of the movie, it’s revealed that the Stonekeeper basically tells a white lie, or “good lie,” to the people in order to “protect them.” The Yetis decide, with Migo’s guidance, it’s better to live with the truth than it is to live in fear or with a lie. Percy must stand for the same value with the humans, who are understandably terrified of the Yetis they see. [END OF SPOILERS]
The overt message in the end is that people shouldn’t live in fear of the unknown. Again, in theory this a great message. Fear can create a tremendous amount of problems, and often instigates conflict, but the application of this message in the story’s context is also irresponsible. There are bad and dangerous things in this world. For instance, people shouldn’t hug a hungry lion. Children need to know that some things in life should be feared in healthy doses. Thus, a reasonable fear of heights keeps you from jumping off the Grand Canyon, and a fear of human predators protects naïve children from getting into a stranger’s van. The final scene of SMALLFOOT even portrays police officers negatively in one scene where they’re lined up in riot gear to face off the Yetis, and Percy and his friend, Brenda, jump in front and stand with the Yetis, causing everyone to realize how friendly the beasts actually are. Not only does this scene feel oddly political, it sends all the wrong messages to children.
All that said, SMALLFOOT has some moral elements to it. For example, Percy chooses integrity over fame and fortune. Also, children are reconciled with their parents in the story. Finally, the movie promotes discovery, exploration and the idea that it’s best to tell the truth.
SMALLFOOT has some fun characters and very good music. Despite this, many children may get a little bored with the movie’s heavy-handed messages, which create a convoluted plot line. Ultimately, SMALLFOOT warrants caution for older children because of its potentially subversive messages and for some scatological humor.
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SMALLFOOT is an animated comedy with a clear premise about a Yeti whose world is thrown upside when he finds a “smallfoot” human, who, he’s always been told, doesn’t exist. Migo is a young Yeti who’s excommunicated from the village when he declares that smallfoots exist. Migo’s assertion contradicts the infallible stone tablet that holds all the rules and knowledge for the Yetis. Migo, with the help of some new friends that believe him, decides to go find proof that smallfoots are real.
SMALLFOOT is a cute idea and has a great cast of voices and some fun musical numbers. However, it becomes too philosophical and boring, especially for children. The movie has odd parallels that can be made against Christianity, as well as a Romantic worldview that stresses embracing your fears with open arms. The movie fails to remind young viewers there are real dangerous things in the world that shouldn’t be embraced. On a final negative note, it’s unfortunate to have another animated movie where dim-witted parents are proven wrong by their children. SMALLFOOT warrants caution for older children.