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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Smallfoot is a charming animated musical adventure about a group of yetis who prove the existence of humans. Starring the voices of Channing Tatum, Zendaya, Common, James Corden, and more, the movie is age-appropriate for younger viewers but does have a lot of physical/slapstick comedy (including many falls from great heights, all of which are survived) and a couple of cases in which dart guns with sedatives are shot. A plane crashes, and a flashback story shows cruelty/weapons use based on hate and fear. People and yetis also show fear and are pursued -- sometimes with tension/peril and destruction of property -- but no one is seriously hurt. Two characters flirt a little bit, a minor character has a drink at a bar, and there's infrequent use of words like "crap," "stupid," and "sucks." The movie strongly promotes the ideas of appreciating traditions but questioning the status quo, thinking outside the box, staying true to your ideals, and giving those unlike you a chance -- in other words, curiosity, communication, and integrity.
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What's the story?
SMALLFOOT is an animated musical adventure that takes place high in the Himalayan mountains, where a community of yetis lives according to rules literally set into ancient stones. Migo (voiced by Channing Tatum) is prepared to follow in his father Dorgle's (Danny DeVito) footsteps as the yeti who hurls himself across a chasm every morning to ring a gong so that the "glowing snail in the sky" can wake up. But then he sees an airplane crash and comes face to face with a creature he thought was purely mythical: a "smallfoot" (human). When Migo tells his village about his discovery, the sage Stonekeeper (Common) insists that Migo is lying and exiles him. Later, Migo teams up with Meechee (Zendaya), the Stonekeeper's skeptical daughter, and a small band of smallfoot believers who also question the stones. Migo goes beneath the clouds that surround the yetis' mountaintop home and finally sees the human village in the valley underneath. There he crosses paths with Percy (James Corden), a wildlife reality show host so desperate for ratings that he's willing to ask his producer to dress up as a yeti for an episode. As Percy and Migo get to know each other (not verbally, because humans hear yeti speech as growling, and yetis hear human speech as gobbledygook), they realize they have more to fear from ignorance than from each other.
Is it any good?
This star-studded animated adventure is a charming mix of positive messages, physical comedy, and a few catchy songs, all of which are sure to please young moviegoers. By switching up the Bigfoot legend to focus on yetis who are skeptical about humans, Smallfoot shows how dangerous it is to ignore reality, even for seemingly well-intentioned reasons. Tatum's voice is enthusiastic and upbeat, and Migo's earnest personality will appeal to both kids and adults. The father-son dynamic between Migo and Dorgle is tender and sweet, and -- although there's a bit of more complex backstory to the yetis' stone-based laws and the history of their community -- most of the plot is straightforward enough for even early elementary-schoolers to follow.
The movie's most entertaining sequences rely on old-school, laugh-out-loud sight gags and jokes. Migo and Percy can't communicate with words, but they grow to see each other not as harmful predators but as partners -- and even protective friends. Several of the songs are cute, but Zendaya's "Wonderful Life" is the most memorable. And Migo and Meechee's romance is sweet without being the central theme of the movie. While this isn't the kind of emotional, adult-skewing animated epic that's going to make grown-ups cry, it's a lot like Trolls: zippy and fun, with great messages.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether any parts of Smallfoot were scary. If so, why? How much scary stuff can young kids handle?
Why does Brenda tell Percy that he's lost his integrity? What does "integrity" mean? Does Percy turn things around over the course of the movie? How?
What does it mean to be curious? Is Meechee curious? How do you know? How did she learn the things that she wanted to know? How do you learn new things?
The Stonekeeper argues that there can be such a thing as "good lies." Do you agree? Why or why not? Why is it problematic to push down your questions, as the yetis are often encouraged to do?
- In theaters: September 28, 2018
- Cast: Zendaya, Channing Tatum, James Corden
- Directors: Karey Kirkpatrick, Jason Reisig
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship
- Character Strengths: Communication, Curiosity, Integrity
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some action, rude humor, and thematic elements
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
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