In the world of animated movies, Disney and Pixar lead the pack, but there’s a group of second tier players. These modest production houses have risen with a slate of crowd-pleasing and low-cost family movies. You can generally rely on them to provide solid entertainment that will amuse the whole family, even if their films aren’t quite at the pinnacle of animated excellence.
Case in point — Dreamworks Animation, the studio behind the “Shrek,” “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Kung Fu Panda” and “Madagascar” movies has another winner on its hands in the form of “Abominable.” This story of a girl who befriends a big, friendly yeti has the cartoon look and magical vibe that should get pre-teens excited.
Just as importantly, there is enough genuine entertainment here that mom and dad won’t mind sitting through this film either.
The story is a fun little adventure. Chloe Bennet plays Yi, a girl living in Shanghai who just happens to run into an abominable snowman one night. The yeti’s name is Everett, and he’s on the run from a villainous businessman (Eddie Izzard) who wants to add the creature to his private collection. It forces Yi and Everett to go on the run, hoping to reunite the yeti with his family in Mount Everest before they are captured.
Anybody who’s ever seen a family film can guess what’s going to happen over the course of the story, but the filmmakers do their best to keep things interesting with some mild scenes of tension. Don’t worry, there’s nothing that would actually scare the kids--it is a PG rated film, after all.
I’m more impressed with the film’s magical tone. Part of this comes from the Chinese setting, but the real showstoppers take center stage when the Yeti proves to have supernatural abilities and makes it rain blueberries and when a field of flowers is transformed into a horticultural tsunami. These are distinctive and beautiful images that stay with you long after the film ends.
The rest is rather standard stuff. The voice cast is solid. Bennet makes for an appealing young heroine, Izzard gets to camp things up in the bad guy role, while Albert Tsai and Tenzing Norgay Trainor get some nice laughs playing the comic relief characters.
The character design is adorable — a lot of kids will want a soft and cuddly yeti plushie doll. The music is also quite rousing, especially some of the moments when Yi plays her violin
As you should expect, the film doubles down on feel good themes like the importance of family and believing in yourself so everybody leaves the theater feeling warm and fuzzy inside. It all adds up to a thoroughly entertaining night at the movies that the whole family can enjoy.
As far as animated family movies go, “Abominable” proves to be more adorable than abominable.