Wait until you can stream it…
Don’t worry. Abominable‘s title is not a reflection on the film itself. In fact, there is a lot to enjoy here, with likeable characters and flourishes of creativity in the film’s second half. However, these bursts of inspiration are few and far between.
Yi (Chloe Bennet) is a likeable and relatable protagonist. She is unhappy in life, but never complains. She wants to travel across China and is quietly saving money by doing the odd job here and there, rather than burden her family with such expenses. Fortunately, she gets her chance when she meets Everest, the yeti. “Adorable” may have been a better title for the film because Everest proves to have the cute excitement of a new puppy. He wants to go back home, to “Everest”, so Yi finally gets her chance to travel, whilst also protecting a creature she cares deeply about. Many of the other characters do feel like stereotypes, such as Peng and Jin, or rip offs from other movies: Burnish (Eddie Izzard) is very similar to the villain in Up, for example. Further, the core relationship borrows heavily from a superior Dreamworks Animation movie, How to Train Your Dragon. The side characters are here to serve a function, and prove to be no more than stereotypical fluff. This may limit the chances of Abominable being remembered this time next year, but it is not necessarily a bad thing. It gives the film more time to make Yi an endearing protagonist you want to spend an hour and a half with, even if the other characters are less developed.
A lack of originality does not just plague the cast of characters. Even from the opening few minutes, you know you are in for a derivative film. Dr Zara (Sara Paulson) says “no sudden movements” at one point. The opening action sequence is mostly told from the first person perspective of Everest the yeti. Choosing to include Coldplay’s “Fix You” in the soundtrack at a “moving” moment in the story is talent show level lazy and uninspired.
Although, there are sparks of creativity here and there. Crisp editing and transitions make the changeover from one scene to the next more satisfying and smooth. We are treated to some imaginative sequences only animation can provide: clouds shaped like koi carp, giant blueberries, a field of flowers becoming a wave for the lead characters to surf on (this is all explained in the movie). There is a twist at the end which surprises well. The setting of Shanghai is a refreshing change for a Dreamworks film, and the city is beautifully realised. So there are moments where writer-director Jill Culton steps away from established formulae.
Unfortunately, it is not enough to make this film as memorable as a film like Toy Story 4 from earlier this year. Abominable is a good film, with a likeable protagonist, a cute yeti, and an even more endearing relationship between the two. Some of the settings and action sequences, and the transitions between them, look great. The only thing holding this film back is a sense of originality; as a result, it never reaches the heights of previous Dreamworks films.