It's interesting to note how the only movies to feature monsters are family and horror stories. Why is that? I think filmmakers like the explore the duality of monsters and eliminate the black and white lines that monsters are know to walk by. Give them a weapon and a kill count and you have Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Child's Play. If you design them like toys and make them friendly, then you have Monster's Inc., Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro. Along with a simple childhood fear of monsters, I think a lot of people like hearing the lesson of "don't judge a book by it's cover".
Today's monster that we're focusing on happens to be the Yeti or Abominable Snowman. Said to be a giant hairy monster in the Himalayas, I can see how this legend can be an interesting one; a hulking humanoid that can easily disappear within the mountains or snow. He's even the main monster within the Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland. So in the case for a lot of family films, we get a story from the yeti's point of view in Smallfoot.
On top of a large mountain, it's shown that a whole society of yetis live and work just as people do. The only difference is that the leader of the yetis Stonekeeper (played by Common) enforces everyone to keep doing what they do, never question the rules, and to never go down the mountains, below the clouds where no humans have climbed before. One such yeti, Migo (played by Channing Tatum) seems to be okay with this, simply hoping that he'll take his dad Dorgle's (played by Danny DeVito) job soon. This changes when Migo not only witnesses a plane crash, but a human, or a "smallfoot" fly away on a parachute.
Migo tries to tell the rest of the village about the "smallfoot", but is instead banished for not providing proof. While walking around the mountain, a group of outcast yetis including MeeChee (played by Zendaya), Gwangi (played by LaBron James) and Kolka (played by Gina Rodriguez) believes that "smallfoots" exists and convince Migo to venture down. He finds himself outside of a Tibet town when he bumps into a TV personality human Percy Patterson (played by James Cordon). When Migo takes him home, we get a glimpse of who the savage is, who the real monsters are, and all that jazz.
On paper, Smallfoot seems like your basic family film with it's premise and even moral of "don't judge a book by it’s cover". I'll say from the top that it's better then I expected, though I don't know if's its anything great. To start with, the animation is really good. Not only are there a lot of gorgeous looking scenes of the mountains, snow covered landscapes, and it's towns, but the designs have the right balance of goofy and likable. You can tell this is a Warner Brothers cartoon, because the slapstick is where the animation really shines. I won't spoil it, but the movie uses it not just for the effect of humor, but with it's overall movement.
The story works fine. At first I thought the traditional route of these animated movies about outcasts was where Smallfoot was going. It does, but it does also allow a deeper insight into this yeti society. We do find out what the yetis are doing with their jobs, how that affects the mountain and what they do to keep the rest of the world closed off. Without giving anything away, I'll admit that things go forward with little surprise. Had the final act gone more outside of the box, I may have phrased it more.
One thing that did surprise me however is that this movie is also a musical. Not just that, but the songs are actually not that bad. I guess this is why Zendaya was put in a large role. In fact, with most characters interesting, why couldn’t they have given Channing Tatum a more in depth personality?
Overall, this is a film that was definitely geared towards kids more then the adults. This isn't for me, but for kids that want a story that may be typical, but is at least made well.
I'll give this four yeti snowprints out of five. While this film is certainly not for me, I can see a lot of families getting into this. If something like The House with a Clock in it's Walls proves too scary for kids, this may suffice as a proper substitute. Go explore and see if this suits your discovery.