“Smallfoot” attempts copy-pasting past hits, but falls short


Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

From Left to Right: Zendaya (Meechee), LeBron James (Gwangi), James Corden (Percy), Gina Rodriguez (Kolka), Eli Henry (Fleem)

Alice Shu, Staff Writer

Sony Animations’ most recent release, Smallfoot, is a poor attempt to take the most appealing parts of past animated hits and put them together into a Frankenstein of a movie that has a solid foundation but is never able to finish what it started. Smallfoot tells the tale of Migo (Channing Tatum), a yeti who encounters a human “smallfoot”, Percy (James Corden). His revolutionary discovery divides his village, and he is torn between following tradition or pursuing new ideals. After Migo’s banishment from the village, several conspiracist yetis decide to help him prove that the smallfoot actually exists.

The first half of the movie is so similar to past box office successes The Lego Movie and Frozen that it’s uncanny: the movie starts with a backstory about their village, and a song about how everything is perfect in their daily lives (“Everything is Awesome”, sound familiar?). Then, after Migo gets banished, what once was a happy tune becomes a sad overture (“Do you want to Build a Snowman”, hmmm?). And once Migo becomes free to do whatever he wants, he and Mechee (Zendaya) sing a “Let it Go”-like duet. Had the movie just stuck with a few of these elements and extended them into a plot device instead of an excuse to add screen time, the story would’ve been actually consistent, which is disappointing because Smallfoot has a good premise that’s wasted on attempts to recreate popular trends.

The rest of the movie follows their shenanigans with (thankfully) minimal fart jokes or yeti allusions, a contrast to Sony’s infamous release last year, The Emoji Movie. Although Smallfoot is leagues above The Emoji Movie, I’m slightly disappointed that they weren’t able to break the “Sony formula”, a star-studded celebrity voice-over cast that does little to actually provide to the plot. I believe that the casting was made solely for appealing to a wider demographic: kids definitely won’t recognize Gina Rodriguez from Jane the Virgin onscreen, but we will. Using Zendaya and LeBron James to voice secondary characters was probably one of the only reasons for my interest in what would’ve been an unappealing movie. This movie in particular had so many famous actors that they didn’t have many lines or notable characteristics. Some of the actors didn’t even fit their roles, although Common’s rap during the second half saved him from that verdict. Smallfoot sacrifices character development and good story for big box-office names which is unfortunate because it had so much potential.

While their budget was made to accommodate a celebrity cast and mediocre music, the aesthetics and dialogue of Smallfoot are ignored due to the hype of its trends. The animation seems like a combination of Blue Sky’s The Peanuts Movie and Disney’s Frozen, as it’s able to maintain a classic cartoon-like aesthetic with shadows and highlights while still maintaining a satisfying color scheme of purples and blues to really convey the theme of a winter wonderland; it’s almost a caricature, complete with slapstick as well. Smallfoot’s dialogue is also sharp, the comedic elements were pretty straightforward, and a few doses of well hidden, adult jokes don’t hurt. While Smallfoot wasn’t able to escape the cycle of its predecessors and left me feeling somewhat empty, it scores as a good family movie thanks to its premise and obvious effort to appeal to a larger audience.