SMALLFOOT, US, 2018. Voices of: Channing Tatum, James Corden, Zendaya, Common, LeBron James, Danny DeVito, Gina Rodriguez, Yara Shaidi. Directed by Carrie Kirkpatrick and Jason Reisig. 96 minutes. Rated PG (Mild coarse language).
Of course, Smallfoot is the opposite of Bigfoot.
There has long been belief in the Abominable Snowman, a Yeti, who lives in the snow and ice of the Himalayas. This is one of his stories! An animation film for younger audiences.
This is an entertaining animation film but with several points of view, especially an allegory of human prejudices, racism and bigotry, the need for mutual understanding and reconciliation.
The early part of the film shows life in the community of the Abominable Snowman – an enjoyable pastiche of paralleling this with familiar human society and interactions. However, there is a certain “primitive” set of beliefs amongst the people. Interestingly, and should we suggest, critically, promulgated by the religious leader of the Yeti, the Stonekeeper (Common), a sacred person, entrusted with stones with commandments on them, holding the people under his control and the teaching of the stones, standing above the people with a look of Moses.
It should be said that the perspective of the filmmakers on the Stonekeeper is extremely critical, visuals of drawings of sacred myths about the creation of the people, the world resting on two giant creatures, which are ridiculed. The stones with their messages carved on them are not to be questioned but, eventually, they, and found to be false, a means of population control. They need to be exposed – and are. (Some of the visuals and thematics relate to the Hebrew tradition, the behaviour of the strict community more like that of a fundamentalist American society.)
The hero of the film is a bit of a dope, and engaging dope (voiced by Channing Tatum), Migo. His father is the Gongringer (catapulted headfirst towards the gong) who signals the shiny snail rising in the east like the sun. Migo is to take over. However, he ventures down through the clouds, something forbidden, and encounters an American television group filming a nature series, led by British Percy (James Corden) who has had theories about the yeti and then encounters Migo, afraid, his voice to shrill to be understood while Migo’s is too loud to make communication. Nevertheless, they begin to communicate and Percy is introduced to a group of rebels who believe in human existence, proving to the group, including the Stonekeeper’s daughter, Meechee (Zenaya).
They try to persuade the Stonekeeper but he reveals art carvings indicating past battles between humans and Yeti. He also dominates Migo, persuading him to lie about what he has seen.
The film certainly picks up pace with the encounter between Migo and Percy and with Percy being taken up the mountain, the reactions of the people, the reactions of the Stonekeeper, Migo being exiled but returning triumphant.
The Stonekeeper’s daughter persuades her father to listen and, finally, the humans are confronted by the Yeti, but, of course, are able to be reconciled. Peace and love all round – and Percy getting a solid television contract!
Roadshow Released September 20th
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.