Abominable Movie Review: A fantastical tale about family, friendship, and loss
Hollywood steps out of its comfort zone and gives us an adorable animated film filled with heart
It is interesting how words have the capability of conjuring up specific images in our minds. When one says snowman, it brings up the idea of three balls of snow, a carrot nose, top hat, twigs for hands, and winter clothing. Just add 'abominable' in front of snowman, and the image immediately becomes that of a ferocious white-furred, teeth-baring creature. Well, thanks to Abominable, Dreamworks and Pearl Studio's latest collaboration, Yeti, popularly referred to as abominable snowmen, have received a solid PR boost.
Director: Jill Culton
Cast: Chloe Bennet, Albert Tsai, Sarah Paulson, Tenzing Norgay Trainor
Meet Everest, who is more adorable than abominable. A furry, large-sized creature with mopey eyes, and supernatural powers. Abominable is about how three kids take Everest back home to... Mt Everest. The three kids — Yi, Jin, and Peng — are the life of the film, especially Yi (Chloe Bennet), who saves Everest from villains who want to exhibit him as the first living specimen of the legendary creature.
Abominable is one of those Hollywood films used to consolidate the Chinese market. The film, in fact, works as a travel brochure to the Asian country. Be it the Gobi desert or the Yellow Mountains or the Leshan Giant Buddha, the visuals are nothing short of spectacular. However, it is the attempt to make the setting universal that is a bit of a letdown. Regular Asian tropes find their way into the movie, but it just doesn't seem organic. Even the cuisine shown in Abominable is more like an outsiders' version of China. Despite such discrepancies and the superficial representation, it is a welcome move to see Hollywood move outside its comfort zone.
The Jill Culton-directorial is high on sentiment, humour, and fantastical set-pieces. Yi, who is aloof from her family following her father's death, is the epicentre of sentiment in the film, and her journey to recovery parallels Everest finding his way back home. Although the scenes establishing the trust between Everest and Yi seem rushed, we overlook it almost immediately thanks to some spectacular visual storytelling. Jin's Rambo-inspired run through the forests, the breathtaking scene where Yi plays the violin at the Giant Buddha Statue, the beautiful sequence on the flower fields, the shape-shifting dandelions — the visuals in Abominable keep the audience engaged, irrespective of the age.
It also helps that the film's dialogues are not just funny but profound too. Take, for instance, the scene where the kids disguise Everest as a yak to transport him in the city. A city-dweller comments on how "ugly" Everest looks. The youngest kid in the group, Peng, snaps back, "Don't body-shame my yak". Peng, who gets some of the funniest lines, also says some deep lines. When the other kids talk about how they will miss lying on the fields and looking at the stars once they go back to the city, Peng says, "Even though we don't see the stars, we know that they are there." There is a wonderful callback to this line later in the film, which makes such dialogues all the more effective.
Undoubtedly, it is Everest who is the show-stealer. With every move, every laugh, every smile, Everest makes us forget that the title of the movie is Abominable. How can you detest something that burps out flower petals? How can you feel revolted by a creature that sticks its tongue out while travelling by a train? More than a yeti, Everest is designed like a really large-sized dog, and come on, who can resist the charms of a doe-eyed canine?
The other characters in Abominable too are written with a lot of heart. Be it the primary villain, Burnish, who somehow resembles Yoda and Shifu at the same time, or Dr Zara, a British zoologist, or even some of the henchmen, nearly everyone has a redeeming quality or two that make them endearing.
Abominable treads on very familiar territory, seen multiple times in films such as How To Train Your Dragon, E.T., and even our very own Bajrangi Bhaijaan. When Yi makes unlikely allies in her quest to take Everest back home, I couldn't help but think of Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Salman Khan becoming friends in the Kabir Khan-directorial. Despite, an overwhelming sense of deja vu, Abominable works like a charm, which speaks volumes about the universality of themes like family, loss, and friendship. As they say, cliches exist for a reason... they work.