Smallfoot is the latest animated movie to be released by Warner, just in time for the school holidays. In a twist on the standard myth, it is the story of a tribe of Yeti, living high in the mountains who have been taught that Smallfoot (humans) are just a mythical legend.
Actually they have been taught a lot of myths and legends, such as the fact that Yeti were created when they fell from the butt of the great Sky Yak, that their mountain rests on the back of giant mammoths and that a gong must be run daily to make sure the Great Snail in the Sky (the sun) rises.
In fact, the opening two minutes are so crammed with myths and scene setting that you might find your head spinning. Each of these beliefs is written on a sacred stone, worn by the Stonekeeper, the quasi-religious leader of the tribe. Youngsters are taught not to question the stones. Blind obedience is encouraged. You can see where this is going, right? Naturally, we quickly find out, not everything we are taught by our elders and leaders is necessarily true.
There are a lot of messages in this movie, many of which will escape the target audience who are just happy to sit back and enjoy the happy stupidity of the Yeti and the craziness that ensues when one of the Yeti discovers a Smallfoot and decides to bring him back up the mountain to his tribe.
For kids, they will quite rightly be impressed by the dazzling animation of incredible snowy scenes, they will laugh at pretty standard jokes, and if they are like mine, they will love identifying all the famous 'voices' such as High Five from the Emoji movie, and what looks and sounds like the Lorax's twin brother (and Mums might appreciate the fact that the main character Yeti is actually voiced by Magic Mike himself).
There are endearing scenes such as when Migo (Yeti) and Percy (human) try and talk to each other despite a massive communication barrier, and when Percy visits the tribe of Yeti high on the mountain. There is also a rather amusing scene where Percy revamps David Bowie's Under Pressure. Watching the relationship between man and beast develop is fun, albeit predictable and there a few (just a few) laugh out loud moments, that had adults chuckling along with the kids.
But Smallfoot never breaks the barrier of being ground-breaking or even particularly clever in the way that Toy Story, Zootopia or Inside Out did.
In fact, there is a lot of borderline preachiness in the film – using fear to control people, cover-ups and lies, the ostracism that can come to those who challenge convention. These are important messages that need to be challenged, but they can come on a little strong in a kids movie, and even the whitewashed happy ending, still didn't remove the taste in my mouth that someone was having a dig at established religion somewhere in there.
Of course, this wasn't necessarily the message my kids took home. My eight-year-old found parts of it a little dark and scary but my less sensitive younger and elder daughters didn't see any issue.
They were happy to give it the thumbs up and it will inevitably prove to be a popular movie for the school holidays.
Smallfoot opens in cinemas in Australia on September 20, 2018.