Review: ‘Abominable', A Gorgeous And Familiar Story With A Mountain's Worth Of Heart

Young kids find a strange and magical creature and try and take it home while various men in black chase them because they want the creature for their own nefarious reasons.  Sounds familiar, right?  What separates Dreamworks’ latest feature Abominable from most of the run of the mill films, is, of course, it’s visually amazing, but also, the film has incredible charm and heart and once again it's continuing to explore diversity.

Abominable follows teenager Yi (Chloe Bennet) who is spending most of her time in isolation.  Both her mother (Michelle Wong) and her grandmother Nai Nai (Tsai Chin) continue to try and reach her, only for her to shut them away and just carry out her days endlessly keeping busy by working her half-dozen jobs as she’s saving money up to go on a trip across China her recently deceased father had planned with her.  The only people she seemingly speaks to is her neighbor Peng (Albert Tsai) and his cousin Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor).  Peng is annoying because he’s a social media-obsessed superficial ladies’ man.  Jin is equally annoying because he just bothers everyone to play basketball with him.  Their lives change when Yi discovers that a yeti the roof of their building trying to hide away after breaking out from a lab housing mysterious animals.  Thanks to a well-lit billboard advertising for a trip to Mount Everest, Yi learns that is where the abominable snowman is from, and he quickly earns the nickname “Everest.”  Jin (excitedly) and Peng (reluctantly) tag along with Yi in her quest to help Everest escape the city and find his way home.  Following them as our bad guys is Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulson) and creepy looking animal collector Mr. Burnish (Eddie Izzard) who can’t help think of Mr. Burns from The Simpsons.  Besides Everest, he has a menagerie of other unique animals, including a “whopping” snake that has aa gag that pays off is a fun and corny way.

As they go across China to take Everest home and try to avoid the bad guys, they learn more about themselves as well as more about Everest.  With yetis being mythological creatures, Everest is a creature of magic.  Everest has the ability to manipulate nature around him.  He does everything from making fruit super-sized when the gang is hungry, to allow the group to use their boat on land and surf the grass like a tidal wave.  There is the inclusion of music in Abominable as well and not in the sing-along type, but instead, it accompanies the story very well.  Yi is well trained in the violin, but since that is something she did with her father, she no longer wants to perform for others.  She still does in her own privacy, but when Everest hears her and hums along (activating his powers) making the two bond over her violin playing.  Later on, something special happens that makes her playing very important to the narrative of the film in a beautiful scene.

Some things don’t click all the way.  For one, this movie is basically a road trip across China.  As Yi, Everest, and company go across China, they really make it seem like they are just going into the next state and not the vast 1000+ mile journey it would take to touch every famous Chinese landmark there is.  These kids would have easily died of starvation, no matter how many giant grapefruits they come across.  The script is rather predictable as well.  While the film is beautifully animated, director Jill Culton should have probably had an additional scriptwriter and not pulled double duty for the film.  Most of the Everest and Jin jokes do land, many of the Peng dialogue relies on the “popular kid” troupes and isn’t ironic for the adults, nor funny for the kids.

One thing that really works with this film is the ever so awesome animation.  This being Dreamworks, it’s something that we’ve come to expect at this point.  Even after being spoiled by the How to Train Your Dragon and countless other films, it manages to wow and surprise us not only due to the photo-realistic environments as the trio voyage across China, but also Everest and his powers as they make excellent use of colors.  The voice work across the board is great.  With the film being based in China, it’s also a plus that most of the main cast (except the bad guys) are voiced by actors of Asian descent.  While most films placate for Western audiences, the only thing that gets Westernized is the language as the references and even the food are based in Chinese culture.  Everest will sell a lot of toys of course, but with him being the group's mascot/unofficial 4th kid, he also has a great deal of heart-warming and comedic moments throughout the film.  While most of the film is quite predictable, once we get to Yi’s story and her history with her father, that’s where the heart of the film is.  While it is a film about a girl and her yeti, it’s really a story about a girl and her father and her finding a way to let people back into her heart.

Rating: 3 out of 5