Review of “Abominable”

Yi (voiced by Chloe Bennet) is an ambitious and talented young woman living with her mother and grandmother in a small apartment in Shanghai.  Her father has recently died leaving Yi with his violin, that she plays beautifully, and feeling a bit lost.  She wants to take the trip her father had planned to take them on and collected postcards of all the locations in China he wanted to visit.  To do that, Yi is working various odd jobs in the neighborhood to build up her travel fund.  One night while on the roof of the apartment building, where Yi has a small hideaway, she discovers a large creature hiding.  There is also a helicopter from Burnish Industries flying low over the buildings, shining a spotlight looking for something.  Yi discovers the creature has an injured arm.  She gets bandages and treats the injury once the creature has calmed down from Yi discovering him.  Once the creature sees a billboard advertising trips to Mount Everest, he makes it clear that’s where he’s from.  Yi decides she will help the creature she starts calling Everest return to his home in the Himalayas.  Everest has escaped from a Burnish Industries research facility where he was captured by Mr. Burnish (voiced by Eddie Izzard) and zoologist Dr. Zara (voiced by Sarah Paulson).  In his younger days, Burnish was an explorer and was on Mount Everest when he saw a Yeti.  He reported what he saw but wasn’t believed since he had no proof.  Now an older man, he is obsessed with showing the world he was telling the truth and doesn’t care if the Yeti gets hurt in the process.  Dr. Zara insists the Yeti not be harmed.  Yi is on the roof feeding Everest pork dumplings made by her grandmother Nai Nai (voiced by Tsai Chin) when a Burnish Industries helicopter flies over and sees him.  Everest puts Yi on his back and begins running across rooftops.  Yi’s friends Peng and Jin (voiced by Albert Tsai and Tenzing Norgay Trainor) see Everest and Yi running from the helicopter, think a monster has abducted their friend and they chase after them.  Yi gets Everest on a barge leaving the city.  Peng and Jin get there as Yi jumps on the barge and they jump on as well.  Together, the three friends and Everest take an epic journey across China, testing their friendship and learning all the wonderous things Everest can do while also trying to keep one step ahead of Burnish, Zara and their mercenaries trying to recapture the Yeti.

“Abominable” isn’t the greatest animated film. It has a simplistic and predictable storyline, ticking off all the boxes when it comes to plot and the twists that aren’t expected but are clearly coming. It likely won’t win any awards as it’s really a very average kids movie. That being said, I was deeply affected by the film.

It is a beautifully realized fantasy world where Yeti are real and it’s possible for three teens and a fantastical creature to traverse China and reach the base of Mount Everest, thanks in part to magic. It deals with loss in an honest way you don’t see very often. It also covers the alienation families can feel when there is a death and no one wants to talk about it. The film is about recovering lost connections, whether that’s with family, friends or music. Yi, Peng and Jin rediscover their friendship on the journey. Peng is a bit younger than the other two and he wants his friends to play basketball with him while they are off doing their own things. Yi is working all the time and Jin is dating numerous girls and trying to be an influencer on social media.

Music is a big part of “Abominable.” Yi’s violin playing is mournful at first but becomes energetic as their journey continues. Near the end, Yi’s playing takes on a fierceness that mirrors the action of the film. There’s an aspect of the story I don’t want to spoil for you, however it involves Yi’s playing and how Everest’s magic affects it. Everest also hums in deep bass notes that activate his magical control over nature. The combination of Everest’s humming and Yi’s playing is a highlight of the film.

There is beauty in the sadness of Yi. She aches for her father. Her only connection to him is his violin, the postcards, a photo of the two of them together and her memories. That sadness permeates the film and only builds over time. Yi is longing for a connection to pour her love and sadness into and Everest provides a vessel for it. Their journey and adventure give her a purpose she hasn’t felt since her father died. While she is only delaying her grieving by keeping busy (she says at one point she hasn’t cried yet), Yi is merely groping for something to ease her pain. As she travels to the Himalayas, she discovers something about herself that’s been in front of her all along. It’s part of that simplistic storyline I mentioned earlier, but the journey and the wonder Everest bring into her life makes this realization hit emotionally like a ton of bricks.

Visually, “Abominable” is gorgeous. The bright colors and realistic yet fanciful environments allow the audience to get caught up in both the beauty and the wonder of it all. Everest looks like a hairy ball with arms, legs, a giant mouth and beautiful blue eyes. He glows when using his magical abilities, causing plants to grow, sometimes to massive size, and modifies the landscape to get away from Burnish’s men. One use of his powers creates a blue glow in the sky like the Northern Lights. While I know it doesn’t exist, “Abominable” made be believe in magic for a moment.

“Abominable” is rated PG for some action and mild rude humor. The group is chased by Burnish’s men on foot and in various vehicles. They shoot at Everest with tranquilizer guns and threaten him with cattle prods. Everest causes blueberries to grow to enormous size and they pop off the vines and strike the characters in comical ways. Everest falls from a tall bridge and is hit by an assault vehicle. The rude humor consists of Everest burping loudly, he and Peng needing to urinate and Everest burping flower petals on Jin. There is no foul language.

The movie made me cry twice. Granted, it isn’t difficult for an animated film to make me cry. I think every Pixar movie I’ve seen has done it (damn you “Toy Story 3,” “Up,” “Inside Out,” “Moana,” “Coco,” et al.) Live action films get me too. My wife and I recently watched “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice” and I cried. In college, I wrote a paper for a film class about “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I sat in a cubical in the main library at the University of Tennessee and watched the film on a small TV. I had seen bits and pieces of it before, but never watched it all the way through. When Harry Bailey toasts George as the richest man in town, I began bawling like a baby. I wasn’t a BMOC and this emotional display wasn’t going to improve that, but that’s just who I am. I get emotional over things that some may see as silly. “Abominable” is one of those silly things that touched me deeply. I can’t explain it, but the combination of the visuals, the characters and the story made me feel overwhelming joy and that came out as tears. Maybe most won’t be affected the way I was, but I hope you are open to the experience as the film is worth your time and money.

“Abominable” gets five stars.

Again, this week there’s only one new film in wide release and I will see and review it.

Joker—

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