Review: Gorgeously animated 'Abominable' lacks emotional hook
Courtesy of Dreamworks Animation
Somehow, the writers who didn’t make the cut on either “Smallfoot” or “Missing Link,” were brought together to form Dreamworks Animations take on the yeti/bigfoot genre with “Abominable.”
“Abominable” is a well intentioned, but ultimately, lackluster kid-friendly adventure that’s desperately trying to be the next “Big Hero 6” or “How To Train Your Dragon” (which is the best franchise in the Dreamworks canon). Though that might not be a fair comparison because those films are so beloved, but when you're putting a big and fluffy creature at the center of your picture it’s imperative we understand and feel that emotional connection.
In the first “Dragon” adventure, Toothless and Hiccup grew with each other and gained a repertoire that fueled three solid pictures, and "Big Hero 6" gleefully introduced an inflatable sidekick named Baymax. In "Abominable" we don't get a dragon or a silly robot, we're given a robustly tall yeti who has just broken out of an unknown quarantine facility and crossed paths with a motivated girl named Yi (Chloe Bennet) who takes ownership of the furry sidekick and gives him the nickname Everest because that's where home is.
Yi generally keeps to herself and works odd jobs in an effort to save money for a cross-country excursion she was supposed to take with her father before he passed away. So when given the opportunity to help reunite Everest with his parents and save him from the clutches of an exotic billionaire (voiced by Eddie Izzard) she grabs her neighbors - a small, basketball freak named Peng (Albert Tsai) and the selfie obsessed, technology driven Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) - to hit the road with style.
From there, the film - written and directed by Jill Culton (“Open Season”) - begins to tow the line with the over-the-top cartoon antics while never fully exploring the themes and ideals presented. For example, the film cuts back several times to a photo of Yi and her dad which she keeps tucked away in her violin case, except it seems like an afterthought considering the film offers no insight into that relationship. However, the violin does does prove a useful tool for the best sequence in the entire film, where Yi - beautifully, I might add - begins to play as the camera twirls around her and the trees and flowers blossom into a gorgeous palette of eye-popping visuals. It's a shame that sequence was cut off before reaching its full potential, because the metaphorical significance was undermined for a meager 97 minute run-time (as is a subplot involving Yi and her distance relationship with her mother and grandmother).
Another solid sequence is when the crew are traversing through the clouds set to the tune Dreams by Phil Beaudreau that tries to give the film some spark. That sequence doesn’t come until the last ten minutes (after a hurried and anti-climatic finale that struggled to hold my attention).
Instead, "Abominable” excels when its showcasing and unraveling Everest’s special abilities (though we must chalk it up to yeti mythology because it’s never explained) which is to harness the power of nature within him. The animators - this is the first major co-production between DreamWorks and China’s Pearl Studios - have worked diligently to craft something unique and I doubt anyone will complain about the astounding visuals on display here.
In other words, the animation looks crisp, the voice work is fine, and the message of chasing your ambitious is something I can stand behind. But the reality is, I never felt that warmth between Everest and Yi as much as I needed or wanted too. Plus, and this is me really be nitpicky, how on earth do these children spend the entire third act on a bridge in the snowy, icy, and freezing Himalayas without a jacket? These are the questions that flowed through me as I was wondering how these kids weren’t dying of hypothermia.
Now will kids really care? I dunno. They might get swept up in the colorful imagery and the occasionally potty humor that lands. But in the lens of some of Dreamworks finest, it would seem “Abominable” could use a little more soul searching.
"Abominable" is now playing everywhere.