Young children who haven’t seen every trick and trope done better a thousand times will love “Smallfoot,” but for the rest, it’s instantly forgettable. Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.
Let’s get this out of the way: The new animated feature from Warner Bros., “Smallfoot,” is fine. Based on the book “Yeti Tracks” by Sergio Pablos, it’s harmless and toothless and plays well with the young target demographic. For everyone else, there’s not much to cling to. At the very best, this offers a familiar, uninspired distraction.
The story of Migo (voiced by Channing Tatum), an enthusiastic yeti who lives an idyllic life in his Himalayan mountain-top village, unfolds beat for beat in the most predictable way. He’s happy and everything is perfect. Until complications arise that throw his entire world into upheaval. In this case, it’s a chance encounter with a mythical Smallfoot — a human. Village doctrine, literally written in stone, says this creature can’t exist, so Migo sets out to prove he’s not crazy or a liar.
There’s nothing particularly egregious about the story, but nothing stands out, which is the film’s overarching problem. Migo has a stock set of wacky sidekicks (voiced by Zendaya, LeBron James, Gina Rodriquez and Ely Henry) who provide moments of bland, broad slapstick but little else. Unremarkable songs pepper the film, including one that will make Bowie fans bristle, courtesy of James Corden’s yeti-hunting, struggling-nature-show host, Percy Patterson. Instead of propelling the story, these tunes interrupt the flow and create a jagged, herky-jerky pace.
A few clever world-building flourishes in the yeti village aside, even the animation and Dr. Seuss knock-off characters do nothing to set “Smallfoot” apart. The result is similar in quality to a middling made-for-cable sequel to a better movie.
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The film carries themes about thinking for yourself, questioning the status quo and not blindly accepting dogma as handed down. Noble aims, and ambitious to be sure. But the script clubs the audience with these notions as opposed to weaving them into the narrative. In the later going, Migo grapples with ideas of lying to protect the greater good, “fake news” and getting woke, but it’s too little too late to leave any lasting impact.
It’s cute, it’s cuddly and Tatum is charming as the lovable, well-meaning goof. Young children who haven’t seen every trick and trope done better a thousand times will love “Smallfoot,” but for the rest, it’s instantly forgettable, like a 96-minute memory gap.
★★½ “Smallfoot,” with the voices of Channing Tatum, James Corden, Zendaya, LeBron James, Gina Rodriguez, Ely Henry. Directed by Karey Kirkpatrick, from a screenplay by Kirkpatrick, John Requa, Clare Sera and Glenn Ficarra, based on a book by Sergio Pablos. 96 minutes. Rated PG for some action, rude humor, and thematic elements. Opens Sept. 28 at multiple theaters.