What is it with the upsurge in cryptozoological children’s movies? DreamWorks’ Abominable, which finds a group of children bonding with a cute yeti, arrives in theaters just a few months after Zach Galifianakis voiced a sasquatch in Missing Link. Perhaps this is how pop culture is subconsciously reckoning with the disappearing Arctic. While such abominable snowmen don’t actually exist, many living things will be lost as climate change continues to erode natural habitats.
Abominable doesn’t confront such dilemmas directly, though it does portray a recognizable family-movie dynamic between greedy villains who want to exploit nature for profit and the innocent children who want to preserve and protect it. In Abominable, those children are Yi (Chloe Bennet), Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor), and Peng (Albert Tsai), who are lifelong friends and neighbors living in the same Shanghai apartment building. Yi’s father died shortly before the movie begins, and the loss has pushed her away from friends and family. Rather than sit down for dinner with her mother and grandma, Yi spends more and more time in a makeshift shrine to her father on the apartment building’s roof that she’s filled with pictures of all the places they would go to on a trip across China.
One night, she finds an unexpected visitor in the shrine. It’s a young yeti, whom Yi names Everest after he recognizes the great Himalayan mountain on a Shanghai billboard. Yi soon realizes that, like her, Everest has been separated from his parents (in his case, by a shadowy secret police force whose bosses really toe the line between scientists and poachers). Yi decides to escort Everest back home on a path very much like the one her father wanted to show her.
Despite the movie’s title, Everest is anything but abominable. He comes off like a mix of a teddy bear and a playful monkey, but the most fun thing about him might be his magical abilities. One of the film’s slapstick highlights comes when Everest and the kids are wandering through the woods, desperately hungry. Everest starts channeling magical energy that causes blueberries to sprout on nearby bushes, which solves the hunger problem… at least until the magic spirals out of control, the blueberries keep growing, and the kids are running through the woods desperately trying to dodge the gigantic fruit raining down on them from the sky, spraying them with purple juice.
The animation on display here doesn’t break any molds, but it does do a beautiful job of highlighting China’s natural scenery as the kids journey to their mountainous destination. The two main subjects of Abominable’s animation — nature and magic — come together in a beautiful scene toward the end of the film, set at the magnificent Leshan Giant Buddha statue.
Abominable’s themes and arc are familiar kids’ movie fare, with only one real plot twist. But its reverent attitude toward nature and wonder is a welcome addition to the cartoon canon. B