“Abominable” is anything but in terms of fun at the movies. It simply a joy to experience, both visually and emotionally.
The film takes all that’s been wildly successful with Dreamworks Animation’s previous hits and adds new layers of storytelling and character depth.
What results is a genuinely fun ride that genuinely earns a place in the conversation alongside Disney-Pixar films regarding animated features that appeal to all audiences, not just the youngest ones.
What’s it about?
“Abominable” focuses on Yi, voiced by Chloe Bennet (Marvel’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.“), a teenage girl living in a sprawling city in mainland China, who makes an astonishing discovery one night on the roof of her apartment building: a real-life yeti.
Though it can’t talk, Yi figures out a few things quickly. The yeti’s hurt, frightened, and desperate to stay hidden, especially when helicopters flying above shine spotlights on nearby rooftops searching for it.
Naturally, she’s frightened at first, as well. But upon grasping the situation, she resolves to help the creature, who she names “Everest” after she notices it looking longingly at a billboard featuring the famous mountain.
Amazingly, what creates a bond between the human girl and the mythical creature is music. When Yi plays her violin for Everest in an effort to calm it down, she learns the creature is capable of music of its own.
As they bond and develop a way to communicate, two things become clear. Everest wants to get home, and he cannot stay hidden on Yi’s roof forever.
With help from her downstairs neighbor, 9-year-old Peng (Albert Tsai) and Peng’s cousin, social media-obsessed teen Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor), Yi embarks on a quest to get Everest back where he belongs.
However, hot on their heels is Burnish (Eddie Izzard), a wealthy collector of exotic animals obsessed with proving that yetis are real. Along with him is Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulson), a zoologist in Burnish’s employ who may not be all that she seems to be.
Adding depth and detail
Dreamworks Animation already has a formula for animated crowd-pleasers they perfected with the “How to Train Your Dragon” series. They’ve built hit after hit around the teen-and-adorable-creature trope for years, and there’s plenty of that in “Abominable,” as well.
But what sets “Abominable” apart is the little details. In particular, the effort to create authenticity in both the visuals and the familial relationships between characters really stand out here.
Writer/director Jill Culton (“Monsters, Inc.“) deserves a yeti’s worth of credit for crafting characters who leap off the screen with genuine, relatable feeling. Yes, the story in “Abominable” is wild, but it’s grounded by recognizable familial bonds and personal struggles.
Also, the design team and animators behind “Abominable” deliver landmark work. Everything from the interiors of Yi’s apartment to the vast cityscapes and breathtaking natural wonders of China is rendered with meticulous care and eye for detail.
Put another way, the food you see in the film will make you hungry, and the locations will make you want to travel. It’s that well done.
Oh, and when Everest’s magic kicks in, just hold on to your armrests and enjoy the ride.
“Abominable” is arguably 2019’s most satisfying non-Disney animated feature. As such, it’s definitely worth seeing on the big screen, where all that animated splendor can be truly immersive.
Younger audiences will fall in love with Everest and most likely want one of their own. Parents and older children, meanwhile, get a heartwarming story about family, connection, and chasing dreams.
This should be the bar Dreamworks Animation shoots for in future productions. If they do, look out, Disney-Pixar.
Starring the voices of Chloe Bennet, Tenzing Norgay Trainor, Albert Tsai, Eddie Izzard, Sarah Paulson, Tsai Chin, Michelle Wong. Directed by Jill Culton.
Running time: 97 minutes
Rated PG for some action and mild rude humor