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Review: Abominable (2019)

Abominable (2019)

Directed by: Jill Culton and Todd Wilderman

Premise: Set in China, a teenage girl (voice of Chloe Bennet) discovers a Yeti lost in Shanghai. She and two companions (voices of Albert Tsai and Tenzing Norgay Trainor) must escort the creature back to Mount Everest while a wealthy animal collector pursues them.

What Works: Abominable is distinguished by its sense of wonder. The movie taps into the unjaded enthusiasm of youth and Abominable is imbued with genuine excitement and wonder about the world. Teenage Yi lives in an apartment in Shanghai with her mother and grandmother. Her life is busy and she performs odd jobs for cash to finance a cross country trip that Yi’s recently deceased father had planned. The early part of the film is about being trapped in an urban environment with Yi in her apartment and the Yeti in its cage. When she and her friends escort the Yeti westward toward Mount Everest the film becomes about wide open spaces. Abominable is also about family, a familiar theme to the animation genre, and Yi reconciles the loss of her father and learns to appreciate her family and friends. The contrast between the largeness of the world against the smallness of the individual and the authenticity of experience and relationships against the hollowness of mere collection gives the themes a boost and reinvigorates the familiar material. Abominable is also well made. The animation is of high quality with great texture and detail, especially of the Yeti’s fur. The principal characters are also complex for a film like this. Yi is a compelling character and the Yeti is empathetic despite not speaking a discernable language. Also notable is the villain voiced by Eddie Izzard. A late reveal takes the character in some unexpected directions.
What Doesn’t: Yi’s companions are not nearly as interesting as she is. They don’t do much except tag along and the boys are pretty much one note and occasionally obnoxious. The humor of Abominable is hit and miss. Some of it is funny but at other times the comedy is stupid or overextends its pop culture references. Abominable also struggles with its credibility. Animation stories are entitled to a lot of latitude but this story has three young people literally traveling all the way across China with no food, no change of clothes, no means of transportation, not even a map and yet they get to Mount Everest relatively unscathed and apparently within a few days. The film also uses magic as a deus-ex-machina device. The Yeti has supernatural powers but the story only employs them when the characters are in a jam. It’s a cheap way of getting the characters and the story out of a narrative corner.

Bottom Line: Abominable is a well-produced animated adventure. The plotting and the humor are a bit scattershot but the film is a satisfactory tale with a likable sense of fun and wonder.

Episode: #770 (October 13, 2019)