Karey Kirkpatrick and Jason Reisig’s Smallfoot is a generally amusing, pleasant and well-meaning animated movie that’s unfortunately on the wrong side of forgettable. It’s not that the movie does anything outwardly wrong; it’s just mired in a mild mediocrity that makes it watchable and little else. It has a very classic cartoon aesthetic, full of freneticism and slapstick, which means young children will enjoy it. But hoping it will transcend its modest family film DNA is asking too much.
The film tells the story of Migo (voiced by Channing Tatum), a member of a society of yetis who live their lives by laws literally set in stone. These stones, which are protected and interpreted by the aptly named Stonekeeper (Common), lay down the truths the yetis abide by. Migo is fine blindly following along with what the stones tell him to believe until he stumbles upon a human being (aka our titular Smallfoot), something the stones say is nothing more than a myth.
This leads to Migo having to question, for the first time, the ways in which he’s lived his life and the lies the society he loves has created in order to survive. There’s an almost totalitarian nature to the myths the yeti world has built around itself, but the film never quite goes far enough with this concept to truly say anything. Instead, the movie wants to explore the reasons why these lies have been put into place (e.g., protection from the violence of humanity) and whether building a society on falsehoods is the right thing to do.
However, the movie is never as heady as that last paragraph might lead you to believe. This is still pretty light stuff, and it only vaguely pokes at the issues it raises. This is fine, considering its aims as a family-friendly animated flick, but it never really wants to rise above these meager trappings. It’s disappointing in a way, since there’s room to be somewhat subversive and maybe even special, but instead the movie simply goes the route of being yet another animated film with a pleasant, welcome message. There’s nothing here to set it apart from any other old cartoon (including a slew of forgettable and bland musical numbers). Sure, you can do a lot worse than Smallfoot, but that’s hardly an endorsement. Rated PG for some action, rude humor and thematic elements. Now playing at AMC River Hills, Carolina Cinemark, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande.