If it a in't broke, don't fix it, as the saying goes. That seems to be the approach taken by the screenwriters of the new animated feature "Smallfoot." The story is actually "Bigfoot," but it hinges on a clever reversal of perspective, centering on a tribe of Yetis in the Himalayas who fear the dreaded, unknown creature known to them as Small foot.
The mysterious beings clad their feet in leather cases with ridged soles. They carryrolls of soft whitepaper in zippered satchels. That's right, Smallfoot is human, and the notion of taking a storied monster like Bigfoot and making him the hero, and humans the monster, is the fun of the movie, based on the book "Yeti Tracks" by Sergio Pablos. The film is co-written and co-directed by Karey Kirkpatrick ("Over the Hedge"), while Jason Reisig co-directs, with Clare Sera, John Requa, and Glenn Ficarra as co-writers.
The story itself is one we've seen before, just with a twist or two. Our hero, Migo (Channing Tatum), is a happy go-lucky Yeti who loves his small, snowy village so much he sings a song about the way it works in perfect harmony. But as soon as you hear the song, we know where we're going with "Small foot" - a young but brave naïf who loves their home will, by some turn of events, be thrust outside of their comfort zone, discover something new, go on an adventure and question everything they've ever known. And that's exactly what happens.
Migo has a chance encounter with a small foot pilot who crash lands on the mountain. He tries to tell his village, though he's rebuffed and outcast by the Stonekeeper (Common), who denies his assertion. So Migo hooks up with the secret Smallfoot Evidentiary Society, and they go hunting for evidence of small foots. In a local village, Migo scoops up Percy (James Corden), ananimal/adventure TV host who sees his own opportunity in the encounter.
Although "Smallfoot" is formulaic and predictable, what sets it apart is its willingness to dive into the themes of questioning blind faith within small communities. The Stonekeeper has great reason to keep the village isolated and psychologically controlled with myth and legend — it keeps them safe, secure and to the status quo. But there's no growth, no innovation, and Migo's father, Dorgle (Danny DeVito), keeps smashing his head into a gong every morning because the Stonekeeper told him it makes the sun rise. It's actually a brilliant way to teach younger audiences about fake news and gas lighting at an early age.
While "Small foot" follows a familiar path, it's what it does with the journey that makes it worth watching.
Directors:Karey Kirkpatrick and Jason Reisig
Cast:Channing Tatum, Zendaya, Common, James Corden, Danny DeVito, LeBron James, Gina Rodriguez, Yara Shahidi
Rating:PG for some action, rude humor, and thematic elements
Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes.
Theaters:Aksarben, Alamo, Bluffs 17, Majestic, Oakview, Regal, Twin Creek, Village Pointe, Westroads