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Abominable – Movie Review

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Abominable – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Universal Pictures

Over the past year, quite a few animated films have been released centered on yetis. It’s uncertain where this phenomenon has come from, but it’s somehow happened. Following Smallfoot and Missing Link, we now have Abominable and it’s an example of how multiple talented artists can tackle similar subject matter and still create something worthwhile. Director/writer Jill Culton has made a lovely film with plenty of imagination and some solid character arcs. A co-production between DreamWorks Animation and the China-based Pearl Studio, Abominable highlights the natural beauty of the Middle Kingdom to go along with the fun journey taken by the leads.

Culton does a good job of establishing the three youngsters at the centre of the story, with loner Yi becoming immediately sympathetic. The decision to make her a violinist allows for some beautiful scenes that take full advantage of the visual quality of animation and how important music is to the medium. Abominable explores Chinese cultural and family values in ways that are understandable to a western audience. Character designer Nico Marlet deserves a mention, too, for his work on the people and animals we’re introduced to. The yeti, named Everest, has a particularly clever design emphasizing his cuteness and childlike qualities.

As the characters journey through China, we’re given some stunning imagery depicting all sorts of locales and the film moves along at a good clip as we go from place to place. Beyond the yeti, we also get other funny and nicely designed animals with an excited snake producing an excellent running gag. Culton directs some impressive set-pieces, each giving us something new to appreciate and which are important in developing and moving the characters forward. Yi and her friends Jin and Peng have good chemistry with each other and Everest that creates the needed bond. The three young leads feel distinct in their goals and how they approach this dilemma they’re in.

Even the supporting characters and bit parts bring something to the table. Yi’s grandmother steals the show with her spirited personality and cooking. One much appreciated element about Abominable is how the villain is written. We understand his motivations and what pushes him and his animal research team to capture Everest and bring him back. There is an animal rights message, too, which is always good to have in these movies. Most importantly, Abominable is able to touch on themes of family and loss in a way that doesn’t feel derivative of how previous animated films have tackled them.

Overall, Abominable seeks to present a sweet message to the audience and it does it quite nicely. Jill Culton has been a longtime veteran on a number of Pixar and DreamWorks productions and it’s great to see her given the reins on a feature film again (following her directorial debut Open Season). She and the other talented artists have created a beautiful film with a good amount of imagination to show for it and some impressive visual splendors. It’s a solid journey taken by the protagonists, aided by winning humour and a likeable charm. Even though this is the third yeti-related animated movie we have gotten over the past year, that doesn’t mean we should dismiss it.

Stefan Ellison

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