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  Abominable Yeti sings the blues
Year: 2019
Director: Jill Culton, Todd Wilderman
Stars: Chloe Bennet, Albert Tsai, Tenzing Norgay Trainor, Joseph Izzo, Sarah Paulson, Eddie Izzard, Tsai Chin, Michelle Wong, Rich Dietl, James Hong, Christine Lin, Kym Miller, Jason Ko, Trevor Devall, Karen Huie
Genre: Animated, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Yi (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. star Chloe Bennet), a workaholic Shanghai teenager grieving for her late father, unexpectedly discovers a Yeti hiding on the roof of her apartment block. Having escaped from a secret compound belonging to business tycoon Mr. Burnish (Eddie Izzard) the creature, whom Yi christens Everest, is pursued relentlessly by a security team led by suspect scientist Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulson). Aided by basketball-loving youngster Peng (Albert Tsai) and his tech-savvy, social media obsessed cousin Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor), Yi embarks on an adventure across China escorting Everest back to his home in the Himalayas.

DreamWorks studio's animated output tends to be hit and miss, but Abominable proved to be among the more pleasant cinematic surprises of 2019. This despite being something of a troubled production with original writer-director Jill Culton replaced midway through production by co-directors Tim Johnson and Todd Wilderman only to return replacing Johnson and the film unintentionally courting controversy and even being banned in several countries after seeming to endorse China's alleged violation of multiple maritime treaties. Which is a shame as with its cast of lively, quirky, thoroughly contemporary young heroes Abominable got the drop on films like Over the Moon (2020) and Raya and the Last Dragon (2021) that present strong Asian heroines as a conduit for re-contextualizing Asian folklore.

On the one hand Abominable admittedly ticks a lot of generic story beats. Yet its familiar story doubles as a heartfelt fable touching on the importance of finding the right way to process grief. And eventually reconnect with life. Yi, hitherto reluctant to play the violin again after the death of her music-loving father, discovers her music spurs Everest to use his Totoro-like powers to literally create life, growing flowers and trees. Also worth celebrating is the film's presentation of Eddie Izzard's Burnish as a complicated antagonist. He initially sees nature as just another commodity to be plucked and prettified for his personal edification. However, armed with solid psychological motivation, his perspective evolves to the point where he becomes sympathetic.

Despite a tendency to use Everest's powers as a convenient deus ex machine the film benefits from a tight pace and a precise balance of action, pathos and silliness. Only the odd clanger drops among a barrage of amiable gags. Top-lined by Bennet's winning heroine Yi and giant fur-ball Everest with his endearingly toothy grin, the cast of quirky characters prove personable and fun to root for. What the animation lacks in razzle-dazzle moments it makes up for with bursts of solid visual invention. Among them the well-conceived opening P.O.V. escape sequence and a finale that combines a real sense of wonder with a satisfying payoff to Yi's emotional journey.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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