Nightmarish Detour Review: ABOMINABLE
Courtesy of Dreamworks Animation and Pearl

ABOMINABLE is the latest animated film from DreamWorks Animation in collaboration with Pearl, which is written and directed by Jill Culton (Open Season, Monsters, Inc., Toy Story 2). The film features the voices of Chloe Bennet (“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D”) as Yi, Tenzing Norgay Trainor (“Knight Squad”, “Jessie”) as Jin, Albert Tsai (“Dr. Ken”, “Coop & Cami Ask the World”) as Peng, Eddie Izzard (Victoria & Abdul, Across the Universe) as Burnish, and Sarah Paulson (Bird Box, “American Horror Story” franchise) as zoologist Dr. Zara.

The film opens in the middle of the action, with the opening scene featuring the Yeti having escaped from captivity. Shot from the perspective of the Yeti up until it finds its way to an apartment rooftop, you immediately feel immersed in the panic that the creature feels as it’s trying to escape from its prison. Once the Yeti has made it safely, we soon transition to meeting Yi, her friends, and her family. We quickly learn that Yi (voiced by Chloe Bennet) has been heavily invested in working hard to save up money while also distancing herself from her family and friends. We soon learn that she had made a promise to her deceased father to take a trip, so all of her hard work is building up to making it so that she can make the trip. After a particularly hard day of work, she ventures up to the roof and discovers the Yeti. Needless to say, she builds a quick bond with the Yeti, before aptly naming it “Everest”.

After this discovery, it’s not long before Yi’s friends Jin (voiced by Tenzing Norgay Trainor) and Peng (Albert Tsai) discover “Everest” on Yi’s rooftop, notifying the authorities and – unintentionally – notifying the people who are hunting down the creature for their own nefarious purposes. From this moment onward, Yi and her friends are sucked into a whirlwind adventure of trying to save “Everest” and get the adorable creature back home to its family. It is through this mission that we watch the characters travel through China, offering us a visual splendor as Yi rediscovers what it means to be family and finds herself re-discovering what she has lost while reconciling with her father’s death.

(from left) – The Yeti, Everest, with Yi (Chloe Bennet), Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) and Peng (Albert Tsai) in DreamWorks Animation and Pearl Studio’s Abominable, written and directed by Jill Culton.

One of the major highlights of ABOMINABLE is how visually stunning it is. While the trio is adventuring (at rather unrealistic speeds) across various areas of China, the audience gets to see these scenic views come to life onscreen in ways that almost resemble an actual painting. The grand scale of these scenic landscapes in comparison to the relatively young trio of characters also helped to amplify the magic and wonder that I think many children (and adults) will feel while watching the film. There is one particular scene that visually took my breath away, which was when we got to see the characters ascend up to the mountains on clouds shaped like Koi fish. It was such a simple visual image, but still overwhelmingly magical and it was at that moment that I felt DreamWorks had knocked another film visually out of the park.

Another highlight is the creature design of the Yeti aptly named “Everest”. Look, this creature is adorable and, based off of the design, is easily going to sell loads of plush and merchandise that I personally will be too weak not to acquire. You can tell the animators did borrow some mannerisms from their How to Train Your Dragon franchise, as there are moments when you can’t help but think of Toothless when “Everest” starts moving. However, the detailing that went into “Everest”‘s animation, particularly when he starts to utilize his gifts, is nothing short of spectacular. Regardless of what you think, “Everest” is adorable and must be protected at all costs.

The one major factor that considerably weakens this film is the predictability of the plot, the usage of deus ex machina-like plot devices, as well as its lack of realism. Granted, this is a film that has a magic Yeti creature and it’s geared towards kids. Who am I to talk about realism? However, watching how easily Yi, Jin, and Peng were able to navigate around landmarks in China, landmarks that are fairly far away from each other in terms of distance, was a little difficult to take in. Throw in how easily the characters seemed to be able to triumph over everything in the film and it was a little difficult to not feel like the heroes’ struggles were earned. However, this is still an entertaining film regardless of how simplistic the story was.

Overall, despite the simplistic plot and weakness in dialogue, ABOMINABLE is a visually stunning film that explores the theme of loss as well as the theme of family within the depths of the adventure we see play out onscreen. Yeah, some of the humor is pretty cringeworthy but, based on all of the kids and parents that were laughing during my screening, that’s not too significant of a ding against the film. Really, it’s the lovableness of the trio of heroes, the adorable nature of “Everest”, and the stunning visual images we are graced with during the film that keeps ABOMINABLE from falling flat.

ABOMINABLE will be released by Universal Pictures worldwide beginning September 27, 2019.  In China, the film will be distributed by Pearl.

Sarah Musnicky
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