Movie Guru: ‘Abominable’ captures the best parts of a children’s adventure movie
Rated PG for some action and mild rude humor
Written by Jill Culton
Directed by Jill Culton and Todd Wilderman
Starring Chloe Bennet, Albert Tsai, Tenzing Norgay Trainor, Joseph Izzo, Eddie Izzard, Sarah Paulson, Tsai Chin, Michelle Wong and more
Grade: Three and a half stars out of four
‘Abominable” should have been named “Adorable.”
Dreamworks’ latest is a sweet, often hilarious fantasy road-trip movie with great characters and a few unexpected twists. Add a light sprinkling of deeper issues, beautifully animated scenes, and the cuddliest yeti to ever hit the big screen, and you have an adventure the whole family can enjoy. Sure, it doesn’t reinvent the genre, but something this satisfying doesn’t need to.
The movie follows Yi, a teenage girl who isn’t coping well with her father’s death. She escapes in work and playing her violin late at night, a pattern that changes when she finds a yeti taking refuge on her roof. She names him Everest, after the home he’s desperate to get back to, and realizes he’s being hunted by a group of scientists who wants him back. Can she and her friends help him get back home, or will Everest and his magic be gone forever?
There’s a subtlety to the movie that’s both welcome and unexpected. Two of the three human protagonists are older than the usual animated movie heroes, somewhere in the vicinity of 16 or 17, and you can almost feel the weight of adulthood beginning to settle around their shoulders. They’re old enough to know that the world doesn’t get solved in a musical montage, and makes the innocence they do reclaim that much more beautiful. There’s also the barest hint of a not-quite-romance, not enough to get in the way of anything but lovely for anyone looking for it.
Of course, that same subtlety just serves to make the funny moments that much more hilarious. There are some truly fantastic bits of humor in the movie, ranging from pure silliness to surprisingly clever bits that rely on the unexpected. You’ll find a little of whatever makes you laugh.
And surrounding the romance and the humor is a huge dose of sheer visual beauty. The kids’ road trip goes through some absolutely gorgeous settings, all rendered with the vividness of real life and the delicacy of a painting. I’ve never been tempted to visit China before this, but if the actual country looks anything like it did in “Abominable,” I might seriously think about it.
It’s not a perfect movie, however. Director Jill Culton could have delved a little deeper into some of the movie’s larger issues, any of which would have tipped the movie over the edge from good to great. Also, there’s a subtle but inescapable sense that we’re watching the English dub of a Chinese movie that somehow got made before the Chinese original. The fact that it’s set in China is essential to the plot, and the relevant voice cast is all at least partially Asian, but somehow, it loses some international charm.
But in the end, those are minor issues. When the rest of the movie is this good, not seeing it would be an “Abominable” thing to do.
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at email@example.com.