Directed by Karey Kirkpatrick
Screenplay by Karey Kirkpatrick and Clare Sera
Story by John Requa, Glenn Ficarra and Karey Kirkpatrick based on ‘Yeti Tracks’ by Sergio Pablos
Featuring the Voice Talents of Channing Tatum, James Corden, Zendaya, Common, LeBron James, Danny DeVito, Gina Rodriguez
There is always a danger that when a trailer for a movie gets us excited for a movie, that the movie lives up to the trailer. In our era of immediacy, far too often trailers disappoint or worse, over promise and under deliver, or vice versa. As a critic, I avoid them, wanting to go into a film without too much influence.
What does this have to do with Karey Kirkpatrick’s animated film, “Smallfoot”?
Well, not a great deal, but it was an interesting experiment in how many of you are paying attention to my every word. That’s important because our central characters in the film, Channing Tatum’s Migo and James Corden’s Percy Patterson need their respective camps to focus on their words, trying to convince them of something that others will never believe.
In an interesting twist, Migo, a Yeti is bound by the traditions of his heritage. He has a father, Dorgie (Danny DeVito) who is training him for a most important job, that of the town crier. No, he’s not sad! Migo is a scientist, who remains skeptical of the stones that rule the yeti society as administered by Stonekeeper (Common), and believes in something more than the community they’ve formed and the stones that govern them.
On the flip side, there is Percy Patterson, a TV personality who has lost his way, and his all-important viewers. He’s looking for the big break like Migo, but is left to do parlour tricks to make his point and when they run into each other, havoc ensues.
The animation is absolutely first rate as Sony Image Works’ magicians moved mountains and snow to within an nth of each pixel. Karey Kirkpatrick’s (“Chicken Run,” “Over the Hedge”) script brings a number of social issues and fears into the animated realm as one society nearly implodes and another nearly explodes. Its this duality in the two worlds and the script flipping of an old tale that makes the film work, even if some of the themes and messages felt shoehorned in; they are still relevant as ever to the times we live in.
The characters are where Kirkpatrick and the voice cast shine. Channing Tatum authoritative, yet playful voice gives imagination and a vibrancy to Migo. He isn’t clueless, but he knows he needs help, too. Corden on the other hand is witty and cocksure, something that works against him time and again, until he gets a grip on his new reality. Zendaya’s lyrical voice is sophisticated and direct, giving the character of Meechee a strength needed to glue the story together. Common as the Stonekeeper is the voice of many, much like Mufasa in “The Lion King”: soothing and reassuring and commanding when necessary.
LeBron James as Gwangi and Jimmy Tatro as Thorp, were probably my favorite secondary characters; they give the humor gravitas and credence in the story. Yet, Danny DeVito’s Dorgie is the heart and soul of the film a literal “roosting hen”. Heitor Perira’s (“Despicable Me”) score is sublime.
Kids will love the animation and appreciate the message; adults can learn a thing or two from these melding of societies. “Smallfoot” isn’t perfect, but no society ever is, even if Channing Tatum sings a song called “Perfection.”
2.75 out of 4