Movie Review – Smallfoot
This animated film came a week after Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 11/9, which is basically an anti-Trump statement because it calls Trump out by name. This animated film is similarly anti-Trump, but it never calls out the 45th American president by name. Some have said that this film is more anti-religious fundamentalism, which is absolutely a fair read of this narrative and probably the more accurate read, but having Moore’s documentary fresh in my mind aided in my interpretation of this being anti-Trump.
That interpretation might be giving this film, based on the book by Sergio Pablos, too much credit because the film in many ways is a recycling or rehashing of ideas and themes from recent, hit, big-screen cartoons. The opening song, for example, is very reminiscent of the opening song in Disney’s Moana (2016). The disposition of the main character is very similar to other animated protagonists like that of The Lego Movie (2014). The protagonist here is happy-go-lucky in his tiny community cut-off from the rest of the world and is content with his routine or mundane life until he realizes that there’s more to the world than what he thought. In that, it’s also similar to the inciting incident in Wonder Woman (2017).
The movie then proceeds as a battle between conservatism and progressivism, which is a battle that isn’t new. It was exemplified in the recent flick The Croods (2013) where the struggle came down to old or older people holding on to long-held traditions and customs as opposed to young people wanting to break away and try new and different things…things that are specifically more inclusive of people unlike oneself or one’s original tribe.
Many in the news have talked about the tribalism in the United States, which has always existed but many say it’s been exacerbated since Trump’s election. Those tribes usually are divided among ideological lines, racial lines, gender lines or geographic lines. It’s the same breakdown here, but the proxy for tribalism in science-fiction is usually aliens. Here, it’s the mythical creature known as Yeti or Sasquatch, aka Big Foot.
Channing Tatum (21 Jump Street and Magic Mike) voices Migo, a Yeti who lives on the peak of a snowy mountain high in the sky. He lives in a village of other Yeti who have a religion based on stones that tell them not to leave the mountain peak because there’s nothing else beyond the clouds that surround the peak. Migo begins to doubt that religion when a plane crashes on the mountain and Migo meets a human being. It’s as if the ending of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village (2004) is instead the first act of this film.
Common (John Wick: Chapter Two and Barbershop: The Next Cut) voices Stonekeeper, the eldest Yeti who is part Moses. He enforces the rules and the religion that keep the Yeti confined to the mountaintop. He’s the Trump equivalent. It doesn’t become clear that he’s the Trump equivalent until the end of the second act and until he sings a very revealing rap song called “Let It Lie.” It’s only in retrospect that the Trump connections become evident.
The clouds that surround the village is like the wall that Trump wants to build on the Mexican border. How the Stonekeeper dismisses anyone who questions or challenges him also felt like a gentler or more pleasing way of how Trump dismisses such as “fake news.”
However, we’re not meant to side with the Stonekeeper, but the effectiveness of this film is that while Moore compares Trump to Hitler, this film doesn’t paint the Stonekeeper as a dictator or even as a potential dictator. Moore doesn’t try to get into Trump’s head, but one can extrapolate him as a man who’s entitled and narcissistic. The Stonekeeper is depicted here as far from that, and more like a Santa Claus or a compassionate king. It also makes the resolution a legitimate toss-up.
For the young at heart, there’s effective, Looney Tunes-style pratfalls. The designs of the characters are interesting. The minor characters are funny and compelling in various ways. The final song called “Finally Free” by Niall Horan is also a cool and catchy track that encapsulates the “stay woke” message that permeates this lovely feature.
Rated PG for some action, rude humor and thematic elements.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 36 mins.