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"ABOMINABLE"
(2019) (voices of Chloe Bennet, Albert Tsai) (PG)


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QUICK TAKE:
Animated Adventure: A Chinese teenager and her two friends try to help a magical Yeti get home to Mount Everest.
PLOT:
Chinese teenager Yi (voice of CHLOE BENNET) is still grieving the recent death of her father. To cope, she has thrown herself into a series of odd jobs to make enough money so she can go on the cross-country China trip she and her dad always dreamed of. Her plans get sidetracked when she discovers a magical Yeti (voice of JOSEPH IZZO) hiding on the roof of her apartment building. It soon becomes clear that the creature is on the run from a wealthy industrialist named Mr. Burnish (voice of EDDIE IZZARD) and his duplicitous scientist-assistant, Dr. Zara (voice of SARAH PAULSON), who want to recapture the beast and exploit him.

Yi ascertains that the Yeti only wants to get home to his family on Mount Everest, and so she takes it upon herself to make sure he does. She affectionately nicknames him "Everest" and is joined on her trek by her awkward, but well-meaning neighbor and classmate, Peng (voice of ALBERT TSAI), and his cousin Jin (voice of TENZING NORGAY TRAINOR), the best-looking and most popular boy in school.

Yi lies to her mother (voice of MICHELLE WONG) and grandmother Nai Nai (TSAI CHIN) that she has gone to visit a college with Jin in Beijing. But soon she, Everest, and their companions learn that Burnish and especially Dr. Zara will stop at nothing to get Everest back in their possession.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
OK, there is no doubt that "Abominable" is equal parts "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial," "Pete's Dragon," and "Frosty the Snowman." Derivative, yes? But I like all of those movies and that perennial TV Christmas favorite. The formula of a good-hearted kid and his/her pals saving a magical creature and then joining him on a quest to send him home is a formula I have downed often over the years ever since I was a glassy-eyed child wanting my own otherworldly friend to save and then be cast back into the real world and largely forgotten.

So, "Abominable" worked on me. To make a derivative flick like this, you have to have one key ingredient, and "Abominable" has that and then some. Heart! You can tell that the people who made this animated adventure flick really believed in its story, setting, and characters. They also put a few nods in to classic monster flicks like "King Kong" and "Godzilla" and took some of the ingredients that have made Pixar movies work over the years -- a mildly troubled teen girl protagonist; an awkward, comic-relief sidekick; a family-first moral -- and made it into something memorable and worth seeing.

Perhaps the biggest thing that distinguishes "Abominable" is it is set completely in China with all-Chinese characters (who still sound like American teens and adults, but that can easily be fixed in international looping and dubbing sessions). The story centers on Yi (voice of Chloe Bennet), a teen girl still reeling from the recent death of her father, who has taken on a string of odd jobs to pay for a trip across China the two of them dreamed of taking together. Her plans are thrown for a loop when she discovers a magical Yeti hiding on the rooftop of her Shanghai apartment building.

She ascertains that the creature, who she nicknames "Everest," has escaped from a lab and wants only to get home to his family on Mount Everest. So, Yi takes it upon herself to see that this happens. She is eventually joined on this quest by her nerdy neighbor and classmate Peng (voice of Albert Tsai) and his handsome, narcissistic cousin Jin (voice of Tenzing Norgay Trainor).

What follows is a scenic trek across China that hits all of the geographic high points from the gleaming skyscrapers of the urban mainland to the expanses of the Gobi Desert to the remote prisons where they jail all of the journalists. I'm kidding, of course, about the last one. This one's a love letter to China. And instead of your kids pestering you for a stuffed Yeti of their own on the drive home from the theater, don't be surprised if you get from the backseat, "Dad, Mom, can we go to China on our next vacation?! Can we, can we, can we?!"

The film climaxes at the base of Mount Everest with an evil scientist (voice of Sarah Paulson) eager to recapture the Yeti for her own profiteering and personal glory. By then, most audience members will have become fully invested in this story. I was, and I rate this one a 6.5 out of 10 (T. Durgin)




Reviewed September 21, 2019 / Posted September 27, 2019


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