‘Small­foot’ is pre­dictable, but worth watch­ing

Chattanooga Times Free Press - ChattanoogaNow - - MOVIES - BY KATIE WALSH TRI­BUNE NEWS SER­VICE ( TNS)

If it ain’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 Small­foot.

The mys­te­ri­ous be­ings clad their feet in leather cases with ridged soles. They carry rolls of soft white pa­per 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- golucky Yeti who loves his small snowy vil­lage so much he sings a song about the way it works in per­fect har­mony. Yes, you may be get­ting flash­backs to “Where You Are” from “Moana,” or “Belle” from “Beauty and the Beast,” but Migo is far more loy­ally un­ques­tion­ing and op­ti­mistic than his Dis­ney coun­ter­parts. But as soon as you hear the song, we know where we’re go­ing with “Small­foot” — 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 small­foot 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 small­foots. In a lo­cal vil­lage, Migo scoops up Percy ( James Cor­den), an an­i­mal/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 gaslight­ing at an early age.

The an­i­mated de­signs are gor­geous. The Yeti char­ac­ters are di­verse in shape, pas­tel color and hair de­signs, and their goofy yet friendly forms are set against pic­turesque snowy moun­tain land- scapes and tan­ger­ine skies. It’s sim­ple, but beau­ti­ful and ef­fec­tive, while the vil­lage is lov­ingly, busily ren­dered with de­tail.

The songs, by Zen­daya, who voices Meechee, and pop stars like One Di­rec­tion mem­ber Niall Ho­ran are a bit for­get­table, but it’s rare to see a proper an­i­mated mu­si­cal fea­ture these days, and “Small­foot” l eans i nto that. Ta­tum also turns in a charm­ing vo­cal per­for­mance as the bright-eyed Migo who learns what it means to think for him­self.

While “Small­foot” fol­lows a fa­mil­iar path, it’s what it does with the jour­ney that makes it worth watch­ing.

WARNER BROS.

A tribe of Yetis gather around a fire in “Small­foot.”

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