Abominable review: The Yeti may look cuddly, but children expect more than fluff
Dir: Jill Culton. Cast: Chloe Bennet, Eddie Izzard, Sarah Paulson, Tenzing Norgay Trainor, Albert Tsai, Tsai Chin, Michelle Wong. Cert: U, 97 minutes
Tinsel Town’s charm offensive on China takes a turn for the cuddly in DreamWorks’s new animated feature. Abominable opens in Shanghai, where recently bereaved teenager Yi (Agent of Shield’s Chloe Bennet) discovers a new purpose in life when a Yeti fleeing wicked scientists takes shelter on her apartment roof.
The titular snow-monster is a fluffy delight, with Dulux Puppy levels of exuberance and the most expressive eyes this side of Mr Snuffleupagus, the moribund mastodon from Sesame Street. Where Abominable may fall down is in the nuts and bolts of charming your little ones. The dialogue is flat, the slapstick flabby. Worst of all, there’s never any feeling our heroes are in real danger – Yi is accompanied on her quest to bring the Yeti home to the Himalayas by vain neighbour Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) and scrappy urchin Peng (Albert Tsai).
An unstated mission of writer/director Jill Culton is to introduce us to the sweep and majesty of the Chinese landscape (Abominable is co-produced by Shanghai’s Pearl Studio). Pursued by the evil explorer Burnish (Eddie Izzard) and bespectacled Doctor Zara (Sarah Paulson), Yi, “Everest” and the gang flee the city by barge. They’re bound for the Yeti-friendly flanks of Mount Everest itself. En route we are introduced to lush islands, baking deserts and the Yangtze River while Yi gradually makes peace with the death of her father.
Their journey from China to the Himalayas presumably also takes them through the hot-button zone of Tibet. China’s presence in the territory was once the cause du jour of weekend protestors. This is naturally glossed over.
They skip Hong Kong, too. However, the decision to make Peng obsessed with basketball gives the film an accidental relevancy in light of the unfolding stand-off between the American NBA and Chinese authorities over a pro-Hong Kong protest tweet by the manager of the Houston Rockets.
There are flashes of awe and beauty as Everest uses his mystical Yeti powers to manipulate nature. He super-sizes a blueberry bush so that the fruit comes crashing down on Yi and friends in a vast purple avalanche. Later a chase through a field turns magical when the golden grass is transformed into a huge crashing swell.
But what child sits down to a cartoon in anticipation of transcendental loveliness? Children want to connect with a story through a compelling character journey and intelligent fun – yet Abominable skimps on both.
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