Amusing animated adventure targets younger viewers.
The least interesting part of “Abominable” is the magical Yeti. Sure to do solid business in China, where the voices will be dubbed with other actors, this minor Dreamworks entry feels very much like something that would appear serialized on the small screen. At a breezy one hour, thirty-seven minutes, this fantasy, about a mysterious Yeti attempting to return to his family on Mt. Everest, starts strong but devolves into a typical action-packed adventure.
Our heroine Yi (voiced by Chloe Bennet) lives with her mother and grandmother in a Chinese city, where she works various jobs in hopes of earning enough to go on a long vacation. But when she discovers a Yeti hiding on the roof of her apartment building, Yi focuses on helping her new friend get home safe and sound. Yi’s efforts are immediately frustrated by a shadowy organization, owned by crusty, billionaire explorer Burnish (Eddie Izzard). Burnish has employed the services of Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulson), who hopes to study the wonderful beast as part of her life’s work.
As the chase is on, Yi and her young neighbors Peng (Albert Tsai) and Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) team up to travel to Mt. Everest. The cross-country trek is remarkably brisk as the Yeti uses it’s mysterious powers to hasten the trip. Younger viewers will embrace the whimsical journey that is reminiscent, at times, of something like “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” And despite the outlandish happenings, the character of Yi, who is struggling with the loss of her father and manifests her angst by playing her violin, will resonate with audiences.
It goes without saying that the studio responsible for the “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise would lean heavily on another story about a mythical animal that uses magic to stay hidden. But what is most telling is that those elements feel familiar, rushed, and even a little stale. By recycling an adventure that would be at home in any other animated release, “Abominable” undermines the effectiveness of Yi’s personal story.
While watching “Abominable,” I kept thinking that this is a film that would have worked without the Yeti. Yi’s life and her talents with the violin are instantly appealing and would have held younger viewer attention. Her grandmother, Nai Nai (Tsai Chin), is adorable, and the city where they live is detailed and fascinating. However, this family story is pushed to the side in favor of an often ridiculous chase and action narrative.
With top tier animation and a lively kid-friendly story, “Abominable” cruises comfortably, while also failing to capitalize on its most interesting components.