Movie Review: ‘Abominable’

Director: Jill Culton

Cast: Chloe Bennet, Albert Tsai, Tenzing Norgay Trainor, Eddie Izzard, Sarah Paulson, Tsai Chin

Plot: A young girl living in Shanghai discovers a yeti hiding on her apartment rooftop. To keep the creature safe they join it on dangerous journey to the Himalayas.

Review: It feels like it’s been a long time since Dreamworks Animation put out an original movie that we wanted to see. Recent efforts have been sequels to long running franchises or adaptations of established brands, like Trolls. Once a rival for Pixar, Dreamworks have fallen into a rut with the most notable effort in the past couple of years being The Boss Baby, notable only for how badly its Oscar nomination was received. When Abominable came around we mostly went in our of obligation (and because children) rather than an expectation of quality film-making.

It’s nice to come back and report that it was a darn good piece of family entertainment. Initially it came across as a case study of what My Neighbour Totoro would’ve looked like if it was made by a modern, Western animation house but we really warmed up to it during the course of the adventure.

Yi (Bennet) is a young girl living with he mother and grandmother in Shanghai. Rather than relaxing during her holidays she’s working whatever job she can find in order to fulfil her late father’s dream of travelling across China to…further away China, definitely not Tibet (nobody said Tibet, be quiet!). She discovers a large, hairy creature hiding on the roof, a real-life yeti who had been captured and subsequently escaped from the corporate CEO of Burnish Industries (Izzard) who’s determined to prove that the creatures are real, alive or not. Upon learning that the yeti needs to return home to Mt. Everest, Yi sets out with her friends Peng (Tsai) and Jin (Trainor) to get him home.

It’s a simple film with mostly simple characters and gags. There’s plenty of burping and falling over along with some big set pieces where they get attacked by the evil zoologists. The film-makers have taken advantage of the location of the action to create some very pleasant visuals, both of the city of Shanghai and the landscapes between here and Everest. It’s revealed that the yeti has some cool if vague weather and nature powers, which mostly add to the spectacle.

If there’s one thing we didn’t quite need is the overblown hi-tech bad guys who come swarming in with drones and crazy vehicles. It makes sense while they’re scouring the city but after a while the amount of resources they have available in remote regions stretches believability.

Abominable isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch, but it’s better than most animated kid’s films doing the rounds. It’s the closest Dreamworks have gotten to capturing the artistic success of How to Train Your Dragon again. Now I have to wait for my daughter to stop asking for a violin.

Rating: SEVEN out of TEN