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Movie review: Let’s get yeti to rumble —  So-so ‘Smallfoot’ flips an urban legend on its head
Migo (voiced by Channing Tatum), Percy (voiced by James Corden) and Meechee (voiced by Zendaya) in the new animated adventure "Smallfoot." - photo by Warner Bros. Pictures

“SMALLFOOT” — 2½ stars — Voices of Channing Tatum, Zendaya, Common, Danny DeVito, James Corden; PG (some action, rude humor and thematic elements); in general release

Maybe subtlety is too much to ask of an animated yeti movie, but in spite of a fun concept, “Smallfoot” feels awfully preachy for a kids movie.

“Smallfoot” tells the story of a close encounter between a human and a yeti, aka the Abominable Snowman. The twist is that Karey Kirkpatrick and Jason Reisig’s film tells its story from the perspective of the mythic snow beast.

The film opens on an isolated community of yetis living high in the Himalayas, beyond a protective layer of clouds. From their lofty perspective, they believe they live on a lonely island of rock and ice, and according to mythic tradition, if you go beneath the clouds, you will fall into the great Nothing, passing the massive woolly mammoths that hold up the island as you fall.

The yeti are very steeped in their traditions, which are carved into the stone plates of a vast robe worn by their tribal leader, the Stonekeeper (voiced by Common). No one questions the stones, and no one questions the Stonekeeper, either.

But one day, a young yeti named Migo (Channing Tatum) sees a human being bail out of a plane crash on their mountain. Migo’s father Dorgle (Danny DeVito) is the community’s gong ringer, charged with ringing the village gong at sunrise, and Migo looks forward to the day when he will inherit the job. But when Migo reports his “smallfoot” sighting, he gets banished from the community, because according to the stones, the smallfoot does not exist.

Banishment puts Migo in league with a radical group of stone-skeptics who believe the smallfoot is real and question the community’s traditions. After some discussion, Migo decides to descend into the Nothing and settle the question of the smallfoot once and for all, and when he comes back with a human named Percy (James Corden), the village is thrown into turmoil.

“Smallfoot” comes from the Warner Animation Group — the same people behind the various LEGO movies — and the film shares some of that same irreverent spirit, if not the same level of energy or creativity. “Smallfoot” is also a musical, peppering its 96-minute running time with a half-dozen elaborate song-and-dance sequences featuring pop artists like CYN and Zendaya (who also has a supporting role in the film).

All the wacky animation and musical interludes augment a story and script that seem more interested in telling than in showing, hammering away on themes like open-mindedness and questioning authority figures in a way that, while ambiguous, might raise a few parental eyebrows. While animation can be a good tool to help kids — and adults — explore such topics, “Smallfoot” still seems a bit too heavy-handed for its own good.

All of which is to say that a family trip to “Smallfoot” should be considered based on how many movie outings you have in the budget. If you’re only dragging the kids out a couple of times a year, “Smallfoot” probably shouldn’t be on your short list.

“Smallfoot” is rated PG for some action, rude humor and thematic elements; running time: 96 minutes.

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