Abominable is a fun if somewhat unoriginal animated romp and, oddly, the second animated movie of 2019 involving Yeti’s right after the criminally underseen Missing Link. Abominable features a protagonist yearning to see a wider world that has been seen in, well, pretty much every Disney animated movie ever. The trio of kids who team up with a magical being running from technologically advanced evildoers is very E.T. And even the old guy leading the chase feels a lot like the old guy from Pixar’s Up. Still, the movie has some decent visuals, funny quips and a few moments of genuine emotion which gives it a pass.
Yi (Chole Bennet) is a young girl trying to save up for a trip across China. Things however become slightly complicated when she discovers an Abominable Snowman, Yeti, living on her roof. She names it Everest as she realizes the creature wants to go home to its mountain. She sets off on her adventure with Everest with Jin (Tenzing Norgray Trainor) and Peng (Albert Tsai) but they are being pursued by a wealthy big game hunter, Burnish (Eddie Izzard), and his determined assistant Zara (Sarah Paulson). Now the crew has to outrun their heavily armed pursuers and get Everest home before the bad guys lock him up forever.
Abominable owes quite a lot to E.T. however the movie does acknowledge it. Probably the most blatant E.T. reference is when Yi finds the Yeti on her apartment roof so she tries to lure it out with a trail of food like Reece’s Pieces in E.T., however there is a nicely subversive bit when Everest chomps the food at once instead of leaving its hiding place. Also, Everest busts out magical flying powers unexpectedly when the crew is in a jam which is very similar to that iconic film. The introduction of Everest’s magical powers occurs quite randomly in the middle of the film. It’s not as if Everest being a Yeti wasn’t magical enough, he also has a power where he glows and sings and then nature starts growing around them to gigantic sizes. It’s ill defined and is a bit of a plot crutch but looks cool. This does lead to one of the movie’s truly emotional scenes when Yi is playing her violin as nature starts to dance and glow set to a Coldplay’s “Fix You”. It’s somewhat sappy but it works well.
The old big game hunter with technologically advanced toys feels like the bad guy in Up. Still, Izzard puts in a good performance that swings from menacing to dopey to sweet. His assistant played by Paulson and gets to do her best stuff in the third act. The two guys running with Yi have some cool bits. Peng is the hyperactive youngster who makes most of the jokes and bonds with Everest mostly because they really like food. Jin is a proper, peppy, snazzy dressed guy who loves his phone and can’t stand running around in the jungle and Trainor’s vocal performance is very over the top but funny. One of the movie’s best scenes is when Jin gets separated form his friends so he has to run alone throughout the wilds, screaming and getting covered in muck.
Bennet as Yi basically has a significant chunk of the movie’s dialogue and she puts a lot of emotional range into it. A lot of the character relationship between her and Everest is mostly Yi saying out loud what Everest is thinking but it clicks because the animation of the characters is very expressive. Everest is a likable, loud, sloppy creature that basically acts like a giant dog. The opening of the movie is from Everest’s point of view as he escapes captivity and it’s really stirring.
While Abominable may not look as elaborately lush as most Pixar movies, it’s still nicely presented. The colour is basically just bright and shiny but it looks great in 3D and there’s some good frame composition which leads to fun gags. When Jin and Peng go up to the roof and see Everest for the first time, Yi is tussling with the Yeti so from their perspective it looks like the Yeti is eating her. There’s an impressive visual bit where Everest uses his magical powers to escape their pursuers while manipulating a field of flowers to grow into a giant wave and leads to a fun gag of Everest basically burping an entire wave of flowers onto an unsuspecting target. However, as nifty the visual of Everest’s powers is, it does lead to the question that if Everest has such remarkable abilities why doesn’t he use them more often to get out of jams. The finale when the armed fellas corner them does have the baddies surprising Everest with tranquilizers but it feels like a cheat that he doesn’t use his powers more.
Abominable is not a classic animated film as it’s a wee bit too derivative of much better movies. But it is a fun one as the quips and random gags give the movie a zippy feel. While the formula of teens find magical creature may be a standard one there are a few moments where Abominable really soars. V
Directors: Jill Culton
and Todd Wilderman
Starring: Chloe Bennet,
Albert Tsai and
Tenzing Norgay Trainor