Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Abominable provides spectacle but fails to satisfy at a narrative level." | Photo: Courtesy of London Film Festival

Yi (voiced by Chloe Bennet) is a hard working girl - so much so that her family hardly sees her. Ever since the death of her father she has coped by pouring herself into work, saving up money and dreaming that one day she will travel across China as they once discussed doing together. At night she goes out on the roof of her building to be alone and play her violin - but everything changes the night she finds a monster hiding there.

This is Everest, whom we have seen escape from a research facility in the film's dramatic first person opening sequence. He's an abominable snowman and as he and Yi form a tentative friendship it becomes clear to her from his fascination with a local billboard that he longs to return to the mountain after which she has name him. Time is of the essence because his former captors are hunting for him, so Yi takes it upon herself to help - and before she knows it she, Everest and two of her neighbours are travelling cross-country on an increasingly bizarre adventure.

This is all pretty conventional stuff for Dreamworks but as it has been made with the Chinese market in mind (an increasingly important financial consideration today), there's an extra dose of syrup to bring it in line with popular tastes there. Many viewers will find the result cloying. Everest is a genuinely adorable monster, expressive and somehow friendly-looking despite the fact that he could easily swallow Yi in one go, but elsewhere the animation is too smooth and lacking in character, as well as too reliant on pretty landscapes and an overblown score. The latter is a particular disappointment given the importance of music to the story - nothing here sounds as special as it should.

Also problematic is the film's reliance on a yeti ex machina, resolving one situation after another simply by having Everest do something shiny and magical. It's lazy writing of the sort that too often gets foisted on young audiences with the assumption that they won't know any better, presumably by people who don't actually talk to children about films. Abominable provides spectacle but fails to satisfy at a narrative level. This makes t dependent on its characters to fill the gap. Everest is endearing, Yi plucky but conflicted. Their central dynamic works well enough. Young neighbour Peng (Albert Tsai) delivers comic scenes for the youngest viewers but older boy Yin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor), who seems to be present as a potential love interest for Yi, is given littlke personality beyond what is essential for the plot. Eddie Izzard is reliable as usual in the role of Everest's sometime captor and Sarah Paulson adds some complexity as his assistant.

Everything here happens according to formula but that's not to say that it's entirely without charm. There are some fun action sequences and effective all-ages jokes. Despite that opening, it's light on peril, with even the scary part of the climax kept short, so suitable for more sensitive kids. There are plenty of worse ways to pass an hour and a half of viewing time - you're just unlikely to want to do it twice.

Reviewed on: 24 Nov 2019
Share this with others on...
A girl and her yeti friend face a race against time.

Director: Jill Culton, Todd Wilderman

Writer: Jill Culton

Starring: Albert Tsai, Chloe Bennet, Sarah Paulson, Eddie Izzard, Tenzing Norgay Trainor, Michelle Wong

Year: 2019

Runtime: 92 minutes

Country: China, US


London 2019

Search database:

If you like this, try:

Missing Link
My Neighbour Totoro