7 / 10
Chloe Bennet … Yi
Albert Tsai … Peng
Tenzing Norgay Trainor … Jin
Joseph Izzo … Everest
Eddie Izzard … Burnish
Sarah Paulson … Dr. Zara
Tsai Chin … Nai Nai
Michelle Wong … Yi’s Mom
Abominable is another entry in the animated yeti subgenre. In the last year, we have seen Small Foot, a goofy flick from the yeti’s point of view; and Missing Link, a stop-motion feature about an explorer who takes a Sasquatch to meet his yeti cousin. Abominable differs from Small Foot by presenting a more “realistic” portrayal of a human teenager trying to reunite a magical creature with his family.
Yi is a teenage girl still reeling from the death of her father. She is secretly saving money so she can take the trip across China that her dad had been planning for them. While daydreaming in her rooftop fort, she discovers a huge, fluffy beast. This turns out to be the mythical yeti, recently escaped from confinement and scared for his life. A few signs of kindness by Yi earn her the yeti’s love, and she decides to take him home to Mount Everest. Joining them on the trip – somewhat by accident – are Jin, a spoiled, social-media obsessed classmate of Yi’s, and Peng, Jin’s younger cousin.
The story of Everest and the kids is sweet without being saccharine. And though the story is well paced, unfortunately, that doesn’t leave much room for a layered story or smart jokes to keep the parents entertained. The jokes are largely geared towards kids, and most are of the farting or vomiting variety.
Adults will, however, be taken by the breathtaking animation. On the way to Mount Everest, the kids discover that their new yeti friend has magical powers that relate to nature. When they are hungry, he causes blueberries to bloom. When they are being chased, he turns a sea of canola flowers into an actual sea, with waves that carry them away. When they face a great gap to cross in order to get Everest home, he creates giant koi fish out of clouds that safely carry the kids across. The animators definitely shine on this project.
The film, a co-production with Chinese production company Pearl, features Chinese heroes, voiced by Chinese actors (Chloe Bennet, Albert Tsai, and Tenzing Norgay Trainor), while the “villains” are white British people, voiced by a Brit (Eddie Izzard) and, strangely, an American (Sarah Paulson) with a British accent. This is a nice little dig at both the imperialism of the British, as well as the way white Anglo characters are frequently the “heroes,” facing off against minority “villains.” Unfortunately, the villains, Burnish and Dr. Zara, are not well fleshed out, which makes a minor twist in the story feel confusing and unearned.
Abominable has a lot of heart. It is a simple story that teaches compassion and an appreciation for nature. The story is definitely geared towards kids (watch out: your kids will want an Everest toy after watching this film) but the spectacular visuals will appeal to audiences of all ages.