Underneath some of the typical animated movie cliches is a good-natured and flexible cartoon with such fun voices and an honest story. “Smallfoot” is released by the Warner Animation Group, best known for “The LEGO Movie,” and while it’s not up to that level, it’s animation makes the characters look fun.
Channing Tatum voices Migo, a yeti, whose village is isolated up in the mountains. Their leader is the Stonekeeper (voices by Common), who wears a stone outfit, and each stone has rules, including its disbelief about the existence of humans, which they call “smallfoots.”
The yetis here are either white, yellow, or purple. Their pelts are either hairy or fuzzy, and they either have long hair or Afros. And when you see them with humans, they’re bigger than they look.
Migo is also the son of the gong ringer (voices by Danny DeVito), who job is supposedly to wake the Sun up. He’s set to take his place, but when he fails on his test run, he finds a smallfoot, who crash lands on the mountains and floats away with his parachute. The 1st cliche here, the evidence, his plane, falls down before the village can get there. And so the Stonekeeper vanishes him.
Migo, however, ends up joining a club, run by the Stonekeeper’s beautiful daughter (voices by Zendeya) Meechee and her rejected friends (LeBron James, Gina Rodriguez, and Ely Henry), who all are trying to prove their existence. Since he saw one, he’s given the mission to go below the clouds to find one.
James Corden voices Percy, a struggling TV personality, who decides to use a fake yeti to strike up ratings. However, the yeti he runs into, Migo, is real, and here’s come the 2nd cliche: they can’t understand each other. To Percy, the yetis make growl noises, but to Migo, the humans speak in high-pitched gibberish. I’ve seen this annoying routine in “Madagascar” or “Rio,” but they way they’re presented here is good silly fun. Mostly the gibberish part.
The movie also plays like a musical with a couple of songs, including Percy’s version of “Under Pressure.” If you ask me, my favorite is “Let it Lie,” in which the Stonekeeper tells Migo that his secrets are meant to protect the village. The way Common sings these lyrics reminds me of his civil rights songs, including the Oscar-nominated “Stand Up for Something” from “Marshall.” It’s on a good beat.
“Smallfoot,” co-directed by Karey Kirkpatrick (“Over the Hedge”), has a good heart in the way it gives the old switcheroo on the existence of yetis, without it bragging about being an original plot. The voice work, including Tatum, Corden, Zendeya, and Common, are fun, and the characters are animated on a jolly tone, without any generic animation tainting them. And it’s interesting how they learn about life before and presently.
Again, it has some cliches, but if you really look at them, you end up having fun. I choose certain kids movies to see whether or not they’re intense for them. “Smallfoot” isn’t. But then again, they have been seeing “The House With a Clock in its Walls,” which I felt was a bit too dark for the tots. So I’m not so sure anymore.