Mission Lab

REVIEW: ‘Smallfoot’ is fun, but is it anti-religion?

September 28th, 2018 / By: Michael Foust / comments

REVIEW: ‘Smallfoot’ is fun, but is it anti-religion?

Warner Bros. Photo Credit

Migo is an inquisitive yeti living in a mountaintop village of superstitious yetis who embrace myth and reject curiosity.

Migo’s father is among those who never question anything. Each morning, he bangs a loud gong to wake up the bright “sky snail”—that is, the sun—so that it can illuminate the town and allow the yetis to work. Why do this? Because it is written on the Stones, of course. The Stones tell the yetis what to do and how to live. The Stones reveal how their world was created. (It fell out of the rear end of a sky yak, if you’re curious.) The Stones even explain what’s keeping the world from falling apart. (Huge mammoths are holding it up.)   

These Stones are the yetis’ religious text, and they’re guarded and interpreted by the “Stonekeeper,” a giant, elderly yeti who doubles as the village leader. Everyone respects him – even Migo.

But Migo’s opinion about the Stonekeeper and yeti tradition is soon tested when he stumbles upon a “smallfoot” – a human – who had crashed a plane on the mountain. Migo always believed humans don’t exist. The Stones, after all, said so!

With no evidence to support his case (the pilot parachuted off the mountain) and with his friends not believing him (the plane fell off the mountain, too), Migo now must choose between the truth and yeti ritual.

“Are you saying a Stone is wrong?” the Stonekeeper asks.  

Not willing to lie about what he saw, Migo gets banished from the village.

The animated movie Smallfoot (PG) opens in theaters this weekend, starring Channing Tatum (Logan Lucky, The Lego Batman Movie) as the voice of Migo; James Corden (Peter Rabbit) as a human named Percy; Zendaya (The Greatest Showman) as the yeti, Meechee. NBA star LeBron James voices a yeti named Gwangi.

The movie follows Migo as he goes down the mountain to search for humans and prove his theory correct. Along the way he runs into other yetis who have been banned from the village and who have formed an organization, the SES (Smallfoot Evidentiary Society) to look for humans. Simultaneously, the film tells the story of a nature television host, Percy, who is wanting to capture footage of a yeti to boost his ratings and popularity.

Smallfoot is an entertaining and nearly squeaky-clean children’s movie that had me laughing out loud multiple times. It’s not a musical, although its inclusion of four songs (including one rap) is more than average for an animated film. I enjoyed all of them. The movie also had a couple of welcome twists at the end. This all comes with a caveat, though: Some moviegoers may interpret Smallfoot as encouraging the rejection of religion. (More on that below.)   

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)

Violence/Disturbing

Minimal. An airplane crashes; no one is injured. A helicopter crashes.

Sexuality/Sensuality/Nudity

Minimal. We seen an animal twerk during a dance and we hear the word “twerking.” (Why, Hollywood, why?) We then see two human dancers briefly twerk.   

Coarse Language

None. But we do hear “oh my gosh” (3), “butt” (2) and “sucks” (1).

Life Lessons

Warner Bros. is calling Smallfoot a movie about “friendship, courage and the joy of discovery.” That’s certainly true, but we also get lessons on integrity, telling the truth, repentance and forgiveness. Another major theme—not judging and learning to trust one another—is also worth discussing with children. (The humans believe the yeti are dangerous, and vice versa.)

Worldview

A young man grows up, experiences the world and a little freedom, and then sheds the traditional beliefs he was taught his entire life. That’s the story in Smallfoot—only in the movie it’s a yeti and not a person changing his views about life. In fact—fair or unfair—it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to picture our atheist friends embracing this movie. The daughter of the Stonekeeper even opposes the yeti beliefs: “It’s not about tearing down old ideas,” she says. “It’s about finding new ones.”

The curious subplot of Smallfoot—spoiler alert!—is that the Stonekeeper doesn’t believe the Stones, either. He tells Migo that the traditions were invented to protect the people and to keep them from wanting to come into contact with humans.

“All we are is curious. There's nothing wrong with that,” we hear in one of the songs.

The good news for Christian parents is that the Christian faith can withstand curious questions and tough examination. Unlike the yeti, we shouldn’t be afraid to ask them. (My favorite site to find answers: GotQuestion.org) That’s because – unlike the yeti traditions – Christianity is actually true.

Sponsors

For children, Chuck E. Cheese’s, Cold Stone Creamery, and Planet Smoothie are the most prominent sponsors.

What Works

Kudos to the filmmakers for turning the yeti into lovable creatures and for not including any frightening scenes. It would have been easy to do just the opposite. 

What Doesn’t

Much of the plot spotlighted the Stones, but I would have preferred another angle. I’m guessing that many other people of faith will feel the same.

Discussion Questions

  1. Too often, we misunderstand and judge people based on their appearance. What does Smallfoot teach us about that?
  2. Was Percy wrong to want to stage a fake video of a yeti? Why or why not?
  3. What did Percy learn about integrity and the truth at the end?
  4. Is curiosity good or bad? Is it possible to take curiosity too far?
  5. Do you think Smallfoot had a message about religion? If so, what was it?

Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Rated PG for some action, rude humor, and thematic elements.