Abominable

 

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A co-production between China and the US blends morality tale with savvy adventure yarn while tackling issues of grief, the natural world and corporate greed.

   

Abominable

Music makes his day: Everest and Yi 

 

It’s a tale both timely and steeped in tradition. And although the Yeti and its American cousin Sasquatch have been featured in the recent cartoons Smallfoot and The Missing Link, this animated adventure is very much its own animal. A young teenager called Yi (voiced by Chloe Bennet) is mourning the death of her father and is dedicating her days to earning enough pocket money to finance a secret trip across China. She is desperate to see the places that her father wanted to share with her.

 

With its elements of magic and fantasy set in the Far East, Abominable could be a product of Studio Ghibli, albeit burnished to a fine polish by the folk at DreamWorks (in collaboration with China’s Pearl Studio). Set in present-day Shanghai, the film offers us a homogenized vision in which West meets East and where the features of a multinational world overlap. Thus, the skyline is pitted with neon advertising and the sidewalks cluttered with a populace glued to their mobile phones. Yet in this crowded universe of impersonal humanity, a giant creature far from its pristine home hides out on the rooftop of Yi’s apartment block.

 

The Abominable Snowboy, dubbed ‘Everest’ by Yi, represents everything that is free and natural, while the trophy hunters on its trail are the embodiment of money-grabbing greed. Here there be strong overtones of King Kong and a message close to Greta Thunberg’s heart. Yet Everest is no mere anthropomorphic anomaly, but a magical beast with live-enhancing powers, an aptitude that only an innocent like Yi and her ill-matched friends, Peng and Jin, become privy to. And there’s an additional symbiosis forged by Yi’s facility with her beloved violin and Everest’s own special gifts.

 

The photo-realistic backgrounds of Shanghai and the wilds of China sit uneasily with this bedtime fable, but nonetheless the film is a visual wonder. It may be disconcerting to hear the familiar tones of Eddie Izzard (as the film’s comic villain) in amongst the chinoiserie, but that’s what comes of a major co-production between China and the US (budget: $75 million). Odd, too, is the sound of Coldplay’s familiar ‘Fix You,’ introduced at a key emotional moment, but for the most part Rupert Gregson-Williams's lovely score gets the balance right. The pace, humour and vocals are also top-notch. Only Everest himself, resembling a merchandising dream of a bedroom-friendly Muppet, is an aesthetic miscalculation.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Voices of  Chloe Bennet, Tenzing Norgay Trainor, Albert Tsai, Eddie Izzard, Sarah Paulson, Tsai Chin, Michelle Wong, James Hong.

 

Dir Jill Culton, Pro Suzanne Buirgy and Dave Polsky, Screenplay Jill Culton, Ph Robert Edward Crawford, Pro Des Max Boas, Ed Susan Fitzer, Music Rupert Gregson-Williams.

 

DreamWorks Animation/Pearl Studio-Universal Pictures.

97 mins. China/USA. 2019. Rel: 11 October 2019. Cert. U.