I loved the trailer for Abominable. It looked funny, it had an all-star cast and Dreamworks usually has great animated films. The movie was far more than just funny. It was touching, surprising, and explores grief in a very real way, better than others have done all while within the framework of a hilarious animated movie.
Written and directed by Jill Culton, co-directed by Todd Wilderman, Abominable tells the story of teenage Yi (Chloe Bennet) who discovers a young Yeti on the roof of her apartment building in Shanghai. When a wealthy man, Burnish (Eddi Izzard) and his zoologist Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulson) come after the Yeti, intent on capturing him, Yi recruits her friends Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) and Peng (Albert Tsai). They name the Yeti Everest and embark on an epic quest to reunite the magical creature with his family at the highest point on Earth. But they are only one step ahead of Burnish and his crew. Can the children succeed in getting Everest home?
This film is about friendship, reconnecting, and home. When we meet Yi, we find her running from job to job, avoiding her mother and grandmother, hiding her violin (her father gave her it) up on the roof and avoiding dealing with the death of her father. Her friends Peng and Jin don’t know how to reach her or comfort her. It takes the journey through China for Yi to reconnect with her emotions. Not only do the children seek to return Everest to his home and family but Yi must find a way back to her family.
This is one of the best children’s movies I’ve seen this year. One of the reasons is how well the writers address Yi’s loss of her father. They do so with compassion, with realism, and without forcing that grief into a mold or stereotype. Despite being an animated story, the writers still show Yi’s emotions rather than tell us how she feels. And her healing happens as she helps Everest and her friends support her on her journey.
The other element that makes this film excellent is how adorable it is. The humor is hilarious as Yi’s friend Peng bonds with Everest over soda while Jin takes selfies at every turn with his phone and gets his expensive shoes dredged in oil and mud. Even the villains are adorable as Burnish bonds with a mouse and a Whooping snake steals every scene. The gags are astoundingly funny and Everest is both sweet and engaging.
The story is less predictable than most, with a plot twist that most adults will figure out but will allow children to get a surprise in the story. There are also some mini pieces of the story told in the last credits that are beautiful and enjoyable even with few words. It is those subtle pieces that make for such an intriguing story and incredible characters.
The journey that the children take is dynamic and will give American audiences some amazing scenes of China as well. The animation is gorgeous and the places that the characters visit are authentic and diverse. Mount Everest is depicted with icy beauty and there are no false steps in the design work. The music combined with the graphics makes for a lovely movie.
The voice actors do their work brilliantly. Chloe Bennet is touching as Yi, as the character struggles with her emotions over her father and believable as an accomplished violin player. Albert Tsai as Peng is funny and wise beyond his years, his bond with Everest almost as strong as Yi’s. Tenzing Norgay Trainor as Jin is also brilliantly funny but supportive and caring. Eddie Izzard as Burnish is the perfect rich man trying to prove himself and Sarah Paulson as his zoologist is strong and driven as a character.
The story as most children’s films can be predictable but given the beautiful animation, adorable characters, and surprises in the plot, I found this engaging and fun. I think most children will love this film and their parents will enjoy it as well. If you love movies with heart and humor, this is going to be a wonderful film to take your children to. Not only does it blend the diversity of the Asian culture with a hilarious and emotional story, but the ending is absolutely satisfying. I loved every minute.
Rating: 4.5 violins out of 5.