ABOMINABLE. US/China, 2019. Voices of: Chloe Bennett, Albert Tsai, Tenzing Norgate Trainor, Sarah Paulson, Eddie Izzard, Tsai Chin, and, James Hong. Directed by Jill Culton. 97 minutes. Rated G (Some scenes may scare very small children)
It’s always a risk giving a word that has negative overtones to the title of a film. One hopes that the immediate thought of any parent contemplating taking their children to see this film is, of course, the Yeti, and the overtones of the Abominable Snowman. And a reassurance, the yeti is by no means abominable, in fact turns out to be a baby Yeti, soft and cuddly, big animated eyes, bottom buck teeth, a big toy.
While the film is produced by DreamWorks, it is a collaboration with China, especially studios in Shanghai. The initial setting is the city of Shanghai and all the characters, except the villainous characters, are all Chinese. The principal villain, a wealthy entrepreneur who wants to exhibit the Yeti (voiced by Eddie Izzard) and an expert he calls in (and who is inwardly villainous) who is voiced by Sarah Paulson.
This is the story of a young girl, Yi (voiced by Chloe Bennett) and audiences are invited to identify with her. She lives at home with her mother and grandmother, misses her father who has died, but has encouraged her to play the violin and keeps a photo of herself with her father in her violin case. We see her going out to do a huge range of odd jobs, earning some money so that she can go and visit all the places that her father travelled to and from where he sent her postcards.
At the opening, the yeti escapes, seeing a poster for travel to Mount Everest – and when Yi finds him on her rooftop, and sees the poster, she calls him Everest.
Basically, Abominable is a rescue story and taking Everest home. But it is also a travel adventure, with Yi joined by a rather insufferable teenage boy, Jin (Tenzing Norgate Trainer), completely modern, can’t live without his phone, but completely narcissistic. And then, there is the chubby playful young neighbour, Pang (Albert Tsai) who loves basketball, wants Everest to join in, all very cuddly.
They are continually trying to evade capture by Mr Burnish and Dr Zara. They travel by boat, travel by truck (full of the local Cola proving more than temptation to Everest and Pang), by car, by foot, up rivers, through jungles, over the Yellow Mountains, into the foothills of the Himalayas.
Which means that there is quite an amount of action, mild enough for the young audience, a sense of menace and danger for the travellers, some precarious situations.
And, there is violin playing and Everest displaying a great gift of humming – which leads to some magical situations (including a giant blueberry pursuit), and Everest able to change shape.
There is a surprise conversion towards the end of the film, and a forceful message that creatures should be allowed to remain in their natural habitat rather than be rounded up, imprisoned, trophies for human vanity.
On the whole, Abominable is definitely not abominable but is rather sweet.
Universal Released September 19th
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.