Abominable, the latest creation from the Dreamworks factory, isn’t going to be winning any awards for originality, but a predictable journey can still hold its value in entertainment regardless.
The staples are all there: The plucky loner, the adorable creature out of its element, the wild journey with a motley crew…throw in a lesson about the value of friendship and family and you have, well, just about any animated title in the annals of cinema.
But if it ain’t broke, why fix it, and writer/director Jill Culton (the story artist for Toy Story and Shrek making her directorial debut) peppers this story with enough heart, humour and stunning animation that it proves rather difficult to discount.
Said story revolves around Yi (Chloe Bennet), a resourceful teen residing in Shanghai who still hasn’t entirely come to terms with the recent death of her father. Opting to focus her energy and emotions on a serious of odd jobs – walking a bounty of neighbourhood dogs, babysitting excitable brats, taking out the garbage for the local restaurants – rather than confiding in her concerned mother (Michelle Wong) and sassy grandmother (Tsai Chin), it soon becomes evident that there’s a grand plan bubbling behind her Summer employment.
Escaping the bustle of the city and the demands of her family upon the rooftop of her apartment building, Yi discovers an unlikely stowaway in the form of Everest (Joseph Izzo), a large, extremely fluffy, bright-eyed yeti who has recently escaped the clutches of the evil Burnish (Eddie Izzard), a former explorer, and the shady zoologist Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulson); the film’s opening moments are seen from the perspective of Everest as he breaks out of his containment chamber and runs into the Shanghai streets, evidently frightened and unfortunately injured.
Quickly bonding with the adorable beast, Yi takes it upon herself to get Everest back to his home (Mount Everest, appropriately enough) under any means necessary, and because all good adventures need an entourage of sorts, Yi’s social media-obsessed neighbour Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) and his clingy cousin Peng (Albert Tsai) come along (somewhat inadvertently) for the trip that takes them across the lush land of China.
As tried and true a tale it is, there’s still a charm honed within Culton’s story, with vivid colours, awe-inspiring visuals, and a beautiful emphasis on the cathartic power of music – Yi’s connection to her violin is one rich in heart – bouncing off well-constructed action sequences and genuine dollops of humour that may aim more so for the younger market but prove effective regardless; a running gag involving a rare breed of snake pays off constantly throughout with an impressive simplicity.
A beautiful film in both its sweeping visuals and its evident respect for China as a location, Abominable hits the notes you expect on a constant basis but succeeds in spite of the familiar. And if nothing else, you’d be hard-pressed to find a creation more endearing than Everest on screen this year.