Abominable, a new co-production between Dreamworks and Chinese animation studio Pearl, is another animated film focusing on the myth of the Yeti. However, unlike last year’s more enjoyable Smallfoot, Abominable is lacking in any originality or cleverness that would make the movie appeal beyond its core audience of young children.
The film tells the story of a young girl who finds a Yeti hiding on her rooftop and must band together with her friends to help him return home to his family. A straightforward adventure arc, the story is weighed down by the inclusion of a forced antagonist. The main conflict of the movie comes in the form of a wealthy collector hoping to capture the Yeti for his own gain. Though this does add some narrative motion to the film, there are more natural means by which this could have been accomplished.
Perhaps most disappointing about the movie is that the humor is overly sophomoric and unlikely to make any but the youngest of children amused. Even older children over the age of ten may find themselves bored by the film. Only two jokes in the movie are legitimately fun and creative, but those are likely to go over the head of the target audience. At least the parents who accompany their kids will have a brief reprieve from the dullness of the story.
Even the message of the film is unoriginal. At the core of the movie is the idea of family and how important it is to our identities. While this is a positive message to be heard by young children, it has been done in more effective ways by more entertaining movies in the past, but even the message that is there feels insignificant within the context of the film. The filmmakers seemed more concerned with making a cute movie about a girl rescuing a Yeti than something with actual meaning.
In the second half of the film, the protagonist Yi becomes a much more interesting character, but for much of the beginning, she is a relatively generic lead. However, thanks to a stronger backstory that begins to get explored in depth around the midway point involving the character’s relationship with her late father, the movie is able to create a legitimate emotional core with some impact.
The voice cast of the film only has three particularly notable names in it: Chloe Bennett, who voices the protagonist, and Eddie Izzard and Sarah Paulson, who lend their voices to the antagonists. Although all three are fine, it is the supporting cast, comprised mostly of relative unknowns, that is more impressive. The few effective bits of humor in the movie are thanks to the charm of the delivery of the performers.
The animation of the film is a bit of a mixed bag as well. On one hand, the settings created for the movie are absolutely gorgeous. The locations in which the film takes place are so beautiful that it is easy to get distracted by them and lose track of the main action taking place. That said, the character design isn’t all that great. Although the characters aren’t overly cartoonish, they also aren’t particularly photo-realistic, existing in that uncanny middle ground that will draw the audience out of the movie.
For the most part, Abominable is a massive disappointment. Despite some well-animated scenery, the film lacks humor or legitimate heart, preventing it from reaching the heights of its potential. Families with older kids will want to sit this one out, and those with younger children wouldn’t be missing anything by waiting to rent it in a few months.
Abominable opens in theaters on September 27.