You might have heard and seen the archetypal stories of a bizarre creature befriending teenage humans and embarking on a life-changing journey that will forever affect both parties. You have known this kind of story in many forms; be it Steven Spielberg’s E.T., Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are, Stephen Chow’s CJ7, and many others. DreamWorks Animation, with Pearl Studio (Kung Fu Panda 3), brings the familiar story again for another magical journey in Abominable, a story about a mythical Yeti and a teenage Chinese girl voyaging all the way from the Mainland to the Himalaya.
The blue-eyed, white-furred Yeti breaks loose from the forced captive before it roams around the urban-jungle of Shanghai. At the same time, Yi (voiced by Chloe Bennet, née Wang) tries to cope with the grief of losing her father by avoiding her mother and her nainai (grandma). She spends time working part-time and playing violin on her apartment’s rooftop when she’s not planning to travel around the Mainland, retracing her father’s journey back then. The fate binds the young girl and the Yeti together as they encounter each other in the very same rooftop. That’s where the transformative sojourn to reunite the Yeti (named Everest after its homeland) with the extended family begins.
Along with the duet, Yi’s social-media-minded friend, Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor), and his cousin, Peng (Albert Tsai), join the party. It’s a fast-paced, vibrant journey drifting from the neon-bathed light festival in the heart of Shanghai to the colossal mountain city with beautiful dandelions and oversized blueberries. One time, the group will end up on a sea of flowers; some other time, they’ll reach the majestic Leshan Giant Buddha statue. Most of the time, the party is aided by the Yeti’s overpowered magical force. The mythical creature will hum and produce magical spells that can magnify the size of blueberries and dandelions or turn a flower field into a literal sea. One thing for sure, the magical journey is adorned with charming colors and stunning visuals despite its comic look.
While the focus is more on the journey to reunite Everest the Yeti with the family, Abominable is, after all, a cat-and-mouse game. The evil perpetrators in the story are Mr. Burnish (Eddie Izzard), a wealthy collector, and Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulson), a zoologist with an ulterior motive, along with their special forces. The villains want to re-capture the creature and present it to the world. While avoiding Burnish and co’s captive, Abominable crafts a series of eye-pleasing spectacles furnished with Everest’s powers. Abominable is aimed for pure entertainment; therefore, the cat-and-mouse game goes as straightforward as it can be, with only slight intrigues.
One of the most interesting elements in Abominable is the role of music. When Yi secretly plays her violin in one scene, Everest will join along with its melodious hum and their melodies harmonize, incinerating a magical moment that becomes a turning point of the story. In another scene, the movie features Coldplay’s Fix You in between Yi’s magical violin play. While the music might seem out of place, the lyrics reflect the plot quite significantly.
Former Disney’s story artist, Jill Culton (Open Season), directs the journey confidently following a story she writes herself. The decision to cast Asian-American voice actors is a bold yet necessary move to provide the story with an authentic context. While some elements might bear foreign elements, but the narrative treats it as simple as possible. In the end, Abominable is a heartfelt story about finding back the home and, at the same time, family. Be advised that the word ‘family’ or 家 (jiā) in Chinese means both ‘family’ and ‘home.’ It’s a perfect holiday movie to watch with your extended family.