By Tom Moore
DreamWorks’ new film “Abominable” has the animation and voice acting chops to be another hit for the studio but lacks the story details and development to be anything more than just okay.
The film follows Yi (voiced by Chloe Bennet), a young girl who is determined to gather enough money in order to go on a trip that she was supposed to go on with her now-deceased father. After her father’s passing, Yi has grown distant from those around her – including her mother (voiced by Michelle Wong) and Nai Nai (voiced by Tsai Chin).
However, Yi’s life changes when she discovers that a yeti (voiced by Joseph Izzo) is hiding on her roof after he escapes from a strange facility. Now, with the help of her neighbors, Jin (voiced by Tenzing Norgay Trainor) and Peng (voiced by Albert Tsai), Yi must bring the yeti back home and escape the grasp of a wealthy collector (voiced by Eddie Izzard) and his seemingly righteous scientist (voiced by Sarah Paulson).
At the start, “Abominable” seems like a perfectly fine adventure movie that’s magical moments and fun character interactions are perfect for kids. There’s even an interesting underlying theme of dealing with grief with Yi still grieving over her father’s death. However, these moments are constantly undercut by the fact that “Abominable” doesn’t like to explain itself, when it should, and its themes are too underlying to leave an impact.
“The animation is stunning in “Abominable” and the film is mystically visual treat that will likely light up any kid’s eyes. The character designs are great, and the detail is very vivid at times.”
While it’s admirable for writer Jill Cutton to include more mature themes for children to see, they don’t really go anywhere. There’s some discussion from Yi and Jing about Yi’s relationship with her father and his violin that Yi carries is a nice symbol for her love for him is nice, but the film never fully commits on the idea of opening discussing it. This makes Yi realization about family and grieving so underplayed that it never impacts viewers on a deep level, and it ends up being “second banana” to the film’s more magical elements – that don’t make much sense.
Now, I only say that it doesn’t make sense because there’s no explanation or reason for the yeti, which Yi names Everest, to have magic other than plot reasons. There’re no real rules established, no lore for the yetis, and very little reasoning for Everest to be magical other than to keep the plot going.
Every time they ran into an obstacle or questioned how they were going to move forward, the immediate thought that went into my mind was “oh, are you going to use the yeti magic.” With there being no real reasoning or purpose for it, Everest’s magical abilities are just a plot device that never makes a deep impact into the story and just feels like an excuse to have good-looking moments of animation.
To be fair, though, the animation is stunning in “Abominable” and the film is a mystically visual treat that will likely light up any kid’s eyes. The character designs are great, and the detail is very vivid at times. The locations feel very atmospheric and even for all the issues I have surrounding Everest’s magic, I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t lead to some stunning moments of animation. Even the voice-acting is solid, for the most part, and the film can tap into the viewer’s funny bone most of the time.
Every time whooping snakes popped up on the screen it got a chuckle out me and Jin and Ping are good comic reliefs when they need to be. Bennet is also good as she brings out the maturity, confidence, and struggles that Yi has, however, I did find it a little distracting how much older Bennet sounds compared to other characters played by kids in the film.
“While DreamWorks had just concluded their “How to Train Your Dragon” series earlier this year, “Abominable” doesn’t ever match the same kind of magic as that series to be a new hit for the studio and is just passable”
There’s also a problem with how the film attempts to implement character development and motivations as these aspects get lost in some of the humor the film has. Sometimes character development just happens in a way where it’s less of an arc, but more of a turn. For instance, Jin is shown to be self-centered and have no dirt get on his shoes and then breaks this mold when he turns into commando Jin to reunite with the group.
While this moment is funny, it lacks enough depth to leave a memorable impact and dig deep into the characters rather than just use their traits for comedic effect. The film’s “villains” also lack a similar depth in their motivations and their story contains a twist that I can just say was dumb and only surprising in how random it was.
While DreamWorks had just concluded their “How to Train Your Dragon” series earlier this year, “Abominable” doesn’t ever match the same kind of magic as that series to be a new hit for the studio and is just passable. It’s definitely got the animation backbone and comedic dialogue to entertain everyone in the family, but it’s lifespan and memorabilitylikely won’t extend outside of a first viewing.