Reviewed by: Shawna Ellis
➤Why do so many Hollywood films include a message that implies that children should NOT trust their parents and that kids are being lied to by their parents? or that parents are not very smart and are wrong—and the kids prove it in the end?
Importance of DISCERNMENT in viewing films
Consider, what if practically everything that the Atheist and Humanist worldview tells people about the nature of reality is wrong and a series of lies and deceptions?
In what does FEAR of rejection and of peer pressure play a part in people’s acceptance of the worldview of Secularism, Evolutionism, Atheism and Humanism?
What is the Bible’s stand on people telling LIES to others with the excuse that they are simply trying to protect them—or do something good for them.
In what ways is it misguided and dangerous for parents (especially followers of Christ) to tell their kids that Santa, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy are real?
What political messages are likely being presented in this children and family film—considering its content and the producers and actors involved?
|Featuring:||Channing Tatum … Migo (voice)
James Corden … Percy (voice)
Zendaya … Meechee (voice)
Common … Stonekeeper (voice)
LeBron James … Gwangi (voice)
Danny DeVito … Dorgle (voice)
Gina Rodriguez … Kolka (voice)
Yara Shahidi … Brenda (voice)
Ely Henry … Fleem (voice)
Jimmy Tatro … Thorp (voice)
Patricia Heaton … Mama Bear (voice)
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|Director:||Karey Kirkpatrick—“Over the Hedge” (2006), screenplay writer for “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy” (2005)|
John Requa—A writer of “Bad Santa” and “Bad Santa 2” / A Director of “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” “Crazy Stupid Love” and “Focus”
Glenn Ficarra—A writer of “Bad Santa” and “Bad Santa 2” / A Director of “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” “Crazy Stupid Love” and “Focus”
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Warner Bros. Pictures
I initially signed up to review “Smallfoot” thinking it would be a mindless kids movie and thus a simple and straightforward review. What could be challenging about a young Yeti who discovers that humans actually do exist? It seemed like a cute, clever and totally harmless premise. Then I began reading some comments about how the film is intended as an allegory about how we should question or deny religious tradition, and I steeled myself to watch it. As I settled into my seat, I was prepared to witness an attack against the things I hold very dear. I did not get quite what I expected, and I do not think the movie had its intended effect on me.
Whatever the filmmakers” intentions might have been, “Smallfoot” speaks volumes about seeking the TRUTH, and so I actually find it supports Christianity rather than subverts it. “Smallfoot” does blatantly present an attack against having blind faith in what we are taught, in following ancient traditions which are not to be questioned and in trusting the leaders who espouse them. And although on the surface that would seem to be an attack against Christianity, to me it could just as easily be an attack on the modern worldview of never questioning Evolution, relying on man’s “wisdom” above the clear evidence of God we see in the natural world, and the ludicrous premise that there is no such thing as absolute truth. I have observed that there is little room for criticism and no tolerance for the questioning of certain “accepted beliefs” in secular circles. For a worldview which claims to follow reason and science, adherents to current atheistic academic beliefs often allow no deviation, with threat of banishment and ostracism if their tenets are questioned.
The movie opens with a jaunty expositional song performed by a likable young Yeti called Migo (Channing Tatum), during which we learn many details about Yeti society in their hidden cloud island. The Yetis in this secret village are never to question the many commandment-like stones which govern them or the Stonekeeper who interprets them. Through Migo’s song and dialog afterward, we learn some of the traditional beliefs which are written on the stones, such as how the first Yetis “fell out of the butt of the great sky yak” or how hitting the gong each morning is the only way to make the giant fire snail crawl across the sky.
The Yetis in the village work all day to drop chunks of ice down into a hole to feed the great unseen mammoths which hold the sky island upon their backs and which keep their home from falling away into nothingness. These and other silly myths are clearly meant as a mockery of traditional creation beliefs, but I find them no more ludicrous than the “scientifically accepted” position that our world came from nothing and that we are here because of random chance and billions of years of unguided Evolution.
How can we know there’s a God? Answer
What if the cosmos is all that there is? Answer
If God made everything, who made God? Answer
Migo is happily accepting of all that he has been taught until an encounter with a human being (a mythical “smallfoot” which the stones say do not exist) forces him to see that perhaps everything he believes could be mistaken. Migo’s insistence that Smallfoot is real leads him to join a small band of other Yetis who have questioned the stones and who feel that there may be more beyond their island in the clouds.
While I thought the movie would be mostly about Migo’s quest to find the Smallfoot, it is really about how one’s worldview can change when we encounter undeniable truth. Migo feels compelled to share his newfound discovery with his village, but not everyone is happy to hear about the finding of the Smallfoot. Migo wrestles with what to do with his knowledge of the truth and the repercussions it could have on his happy but ignorant society.
Much of the allegory will be far above the heads of very young children but should provide lots to think about for preteens through adults. Can a lie be a “good” lie? Should we ever be willing to deny the truth in order to protect others? Is it okay to question what we have always been taught? I am actually thankful for a film which presents a platform for such thought… or better yet, discussion. Even if this film may have been intended to cause viewers to doubt religious teachings, it is always good to examine why we believe what we believe.
I am saddened when I hear about teens who question their faith and are told to “just believe” without being given any of the many solid evidences in favor of the Bible’s accuracy. If people are not given a reason TO believe, why is it any surprise that many walk away from Christianity when life gets hard or when the things they have always been taught are challenged?
We need to not only have a reason for believing what we do, we need to be prepared to share and defend it. We are told to always be ready with an answer for those who ask us about the hope that we have (I Peter 3:15). “Because that’s what I was taught” is never an answer that will hold up to much scrutiny, and if that is the only answer we can give for why we believe, we need to examine and prepare ourselves. In today’s time with so many resources for strong Christian apologetics, we are without excuse if we can’t offer an answer for why we believe what we believe. Jesus is not threatened by the world’s lame attempts to dethrone Him.
The young children in the audience at my viewing delighted in the fast-paced comedy action, but did not seem to get the more subtle humor in “Smallfoot.” I heard a few mild chuckles from adults, but much of the writing seemed to fall a little flat. The message of questioning everything was continual and seemed a bit too forced at times. Likewise, “Smallfoot” tries almost too hard to be a morality tale about accepting others who we once feared. Characters change for the better, which is nice, but I feel as if the movie is trying to make too many points and commentaries along the way.
The animation style is bright and cartoonish, with beautiful mountain backgrounds and enough variation between Yeti characters that there is no confusion. The vocal acting was solid, and most of the songs were nice additions.
This film is marketing itself as something of an animated musical, and there is vocal talent on display. In particular, a song by Zendaya (portraying Meechee) about how we should look more closely at the world around us to find truth actually resonated with me. Indeed, if we examine the natural world, we will see the handiwork of God there (Romans 1:20). And if we wholeheartedly seek God, He will be found by us (1 Chronicles 28:9).
If moviegoers take the advice of this song and look more closely at what’s all around them, they should actually be drawn closer to God. Lyrics encourage the listener to “be the seeker of the truth, listen when you hear it calling you, you know it’s calling you.” If the filmmakers hoped this song about seeking truth would lead people away from belief in the One who actually calls Himself “the Truth” and who calls out to everyone to accept Him, this song might backfire on them. I was actually surprised to hear so much about seeking the truth in this film, considering that the world’s “wisdom” tells us there is no such thing as absolute truth, and that “what is true for you might not be true for me.'
In the closing credits, a song by Niall Horan about being set free by the truth could just as easily be a celebration of the freedom we have in Christ. There is certainly no such freedom and joy to be found in believing the atheistic worldview that we came from nothing and are going to nothing.
One song sequence has some mildly disturbing visuals in which stylized Yetis are seen being hunted by savage humans. This song, performed by the Stonekeeper (Lebron James), encourages Migo to keep silent even when he has discovered the truth about Smallfoot. In contrast to the songs about seeking truth and about being set free by the truth, this is a subversive song which says, “what’s true or not true is in the eye of the beholder.” Now, here is the worldview content I expected! It is interesting that this song is performed by the character who supposedly represents religious tradition, yet he is actually spouting the mantra of the current Secular Humanists.
Some of these musical numbers are shown in such a stylized way that children may not understand the story-telling which is taking place, especially during the lengthy karaoke performance by floundering nature show host Percy (James Corden—“The Late Late Show with James Corden”). I heard several children asking their parents what was happening at these times. I also felt some restlessness around me due to the length of the musical selections.
Some scenes could be a little disturbing for sensitive children. Characters are chased, shot with tranquilizers, and otherwise threatened. Vehicles and helicopters crash. A prolonged scene takes place in a bar and some are seen drinking.
In a repeated gag, Yetis are curious about the usage of human size toilet paper which they think is a “scroll of invisible wisdom.”
A character tells someone, “I am your god.”
A few crude terms include: “crap,” “butt,” and “sucks” are used perhaps twice each. The minced oath “gosh” is used, as well as what sounds like “holy wow-ness.”
Characters lie for various purposes, and some are referred to as “good” lies. Other times lies are shown as being wrong and dangerous.
Percy shows a video clip of a “twerking hog” and laments that it gets more views than his nature show.
Some people might reject this film because on the surface it seems anti-Bible and anti-God. Although this may have been intended by the filmmakers, it does not have to be the final take-away. One of the characters in “Smallfoot” says something like this: “Truth is complicated and can be scary, but it’s better than believing a lie.” Truth is what we should always seek. We should blindly accept nothing, and our Lord does not ask us to do so. He has given us a world which showcases His creativity and declares His glory. He has given us His Word which resounds with truth and reason. Its claims can be answered. Its Author can be trusted. Its Savior can be called upon. Faith is not blindly accepting the flawed traditions of men… it is trusting completely in the One who made us and sustains us. And when we do so, we see that empty traditions, the world’s lies and the secular teachings of mere man that we may have once believed now ring false.
If you take your children or teens to see “Smallfoot,” be prepared to discuss these things.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.