By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
Phil Lord & Christopher Miller have had a hand in many of the beautiful entertainments we’ve enjoyed the last few years.
Well, almost on two fronts on this one.
One thing they’ve done a bit under the radar is continue overseeing as producers the quirky, charming animation style they established on their directorial debut, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Between the sequel, Storks, and now Smallfoot, it’s a house style I’ll keep coming back for.
Smallfoot stars Channing Tatum as a Yeti living in an insular society where everyone does their part and nobody asks questions. One day, though, he finds a “smallfoot”, and gets banished for telling his fellow Yeti about this orthodoxy-challenging experience. Along with a quirky band of free-thinking yeti, he sets out to find out whether there are more smallfeet below the clouds.
As you can tell from that description, this movie is somewhat adult in its plotting, for good and ill. The film is essentially a parable about the perils of blind belief and after starting out as a Philip Pullman wet dream.
Finally, somebody nails “atheism for children in the snow”!
It does complicate that initial reading later when Tatum’s yeti discovers why the Common-voiced leader of his community and all the leaders before him chose to discourage curiosity and questioning to the extent they do, and God knows our society could use a bit more free-thinking and a bit less ‘believe whatever I see on Facebook/Twitter/wherever Alex Jones is left purveying his nonsense these days’.
In less weighty matters, the anarchic jokes and character movements of that Lord & Miller style continue with this film, if not quite as beautifully anarchic as Storks.
Once we get into the third act the allegory stretches a bit thin and arguably snaps right around the point the Yeti’s sacred text is used as projectile weaponry.
For a movie about questioning institutions, it’s also a bit curious that the human world beneath the Yeti’s mountain appears to be a version of Chinese Tibet that has been completely culturally assimilated. Maybe setting it in the Nepalese side of the Himalayas would’ve been a tad more neutral than this kind of pandering?
Say what you will about this movie, but it doesn’t even get made today.
This film is also billed as a musical, and as such things go, the music isn’t terrible. However, the vocal mix certainly is- outside of Common’s well-enunciated Hamilton-style expository rap scene, it’s virtually impossible to tell what any of the lyrics are. Very odd choice.
Smallfoot is a pleasant, often amusing animated tale with a surprisingly adult message about thinking for yourself.
Smallfoot (2018) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: very time a human squeaks
Take a Drink: whenever the goat shows up
Take a Drink: whenever a should-be fatal fall happens
Take a Drink: whenever a character whips out a smartphone
Do a Shot: for very song