Dan's Review: "Abominable," an Adorable, Surprising, Visual Treat
Sep 27, 2019 11:33PM
● By Dan Metcalf
Chloe Bennet, Albert Tsai, Joseph Izzo, and Tenzing Norgay Trainor in Abominable - © 2019 Universal/Dreamworks Animation.
Abominable (Universal/Dreamworks Animation)
Rated PG for some action and mild rude humor.
Starring (voices of) Chloe Bennet, Albert Tsai, Tenzing Norgay Trainor, Eddie Izzard, Sarah Paulson, Tsai Chin, Michelle Wong, Joseph Izzo.
Written and directed by Jill Culton.
With the advent of improved technology and an increasing appetite for quality family entertainment, computer-animated feature films are now more common than we ever thought possible. With more movies comes the realization that all of them couldn’t possibly deliver the same quality as most Pixar films, with plenty of stinkers littering the cinematic landscape, some of which should barely fit the standards of a Barbie direct-to-video release. Abominable, the latest Dreamworks Animation Studios film had all the markings of being another cartoon disappointment, considering its source material and lack of A-list voice talent. At the risk of being one of those “judge a book by its cover” film critics, I experienced it with an open mind.
It’s the story of a Yeti (Joseph Izzo) who’s been captured by a wealthy explorer Burnish (Eddie Izzard) who has kept the mythical animal licked up in a research facility. When the Yeti escapes in the streets of a major (unnamed) Chinese city, he encounters Yi (Chloe Bennet) a hard-working teenage girl driven to earn enough money to travel and see the country. Yi’s obsession for travel comes from the recent death of her father, who left her his prized violin that she has refused to play for her mother (Michelle Wong) and grandmother (Tsai Chin). Yi protects the yeti (she names “Everest”) until Burnish’s goons track the animal down to the rooftop of her apartment building. With a little help from her self-obsessed neighbor Peng (Albert Tsai) and his sports-obsessed younger cousin Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor), Yi and the kids escape to the countryside as Burnish’s lead scientist Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulson) and a small, corporate army track them. Yi and her friends soon discover that Everest has magical powers that enable him to manipulate nature through his touch and voice. The kids do all they can to get Everest back to his Yeti family before Zara and Burnish can recapture him.
Abominable is surprisingly fresh and visually appealing, coming in on the heels of another cartoon based on the mythical Yetis, 2018’s disappointing Smallfoot. While lacking the A-listers and being a movie based in China void of American characters (which seems appropriate, considering China’s hemispheric proximity to the Himalayas), Abominable relies on well-drawn characters with genuine likability and plausible development.
Yes, there are plenty of “gentle creature” clichés, sight gags, and silly moments meant to keep little children giggling, but at its heart, Abominable is a movie about the importance of family that doesn’t get too preachy about the environment, capitalism, or the superficiality of the younger generation along the way. That’s a rare thing in most movies of its kind, making Abominable a surprising treat for the whole family.