Directed By Jill Culton and Todd Wilderman
Starring – Chloe Bennet, Albert Tsai, Tenzing Norgay Trainor
The Plot – When teenage Yi (Bennet) encounters a young Yeti on the roof of her apartment building in Shanghai, she and her mischievous cousins, Jin (Trainor) and Peng (Tsai), name him “Everest” and embark on an epic quest to reunite the magical creature with his family at the highest point on Earth. But the trio of friends will have to stay one-step ahead of Burnish (Eddie Izzard), a wealthy man intent on capturing a Yeti, and zoologist Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulson) to help Everest get home.
Rated PG for some action and mild rude humor
– Dreamy animation. Lets get the best thing out of the way first, as the combination of luscious landscapes and character designs brings forth a fantastical quality to the airy illustrations, which combines the technology of today with the anime rendering of the past. That’s not to say that this is an anime style movie completely, but the flowing believability of the grass and plants in frame, combined with enough eye-stretching scenery that makes you scream for a pause button, makes this easily Universal Animation’s most visually ambitious film to date. For the character designs, the decision to make big expression-filled eyes is one that better paints the vibrancy in personalities of these teenage protagonists. Likewise, it’s Everest’s windows to his soul, as well as his ever-changing facial complexion that easily paints what the animal is trying to say, leaving nothing of personality or depth in the ink of the pen. My lone critique for the animation involves a lack of breath that is visible during a scene that takes place on Mount Everest, but it’s one small crack in an otherwise perfect armor of artistic expression.
– Masterful shot compositions. It’s not often that I get to compliment the camera angles during an animated film, but I would be ignorant if I didn’t mention the amount of storytelling depth given to some metaphorical imagery that constantly held my attention. One such example is during Yi and Everest’s initial encounter in a blanket manufactured tent. It is dark inside to represent Everest’s cold and condemning personality to that point, but it’s the warm glow stemming from outside of the tent that is brought forth by Yi’s hand that alludes us to a colorful opportunity for the creature to change everything. There are many more meaningful shots like this one scattered throughout the movie, and in conjunction with the heart of the themes it really fires on all cylinders of the emotional circumference that the story is conveying.
– Sweet as candy. There are very few films in 2019 that will touch you as strongly as “Abomination”, and the reason for that accomplishment is in the array of mature themes and conversations that treat its youthful audience with the dignity they deserve. Grief, self-worth, and especially family are three consistent tracks that the narrative train takes us through, not only focusing on mature consequences for life, but also valuing the importance of personal growth in a way that evolves our characters before our very eyes. While the trio of human protagonists are already a family, you really only feel that tight-knit connection between them once this road trip has tested them in unforeseen ways, and with the addition of a hairy, humming mountain creature, it cements a dynamic between them that is too rich in sentimentality to escape from its heartfelt radiance.
– Refreshing opportunity. I knew very little about this film heading into it, but what transpired was a documentation of Asian depiction that we as an audience receive very few opportunities with in American animation. For one, there’s no vicious stereotyping when it comes to the accents or speech patterns given to the characters. This is big because it never allows the film to feel demeaning or unintentionally humorous at the result of its prominent culture. Secondly, it cloaks them in relatability in a way that the audience, regardless of heritage, will respond with unabashed similarity. Asian culture received live action attention last year with “Crazy Rich Asians”, and it’s nice to see that streak continue in the animated capacity, made even more appreciative with the respect that the film has in appreciating them as people above anything else.
– Fresh-faced performances. While all of them are established actors in their own respective directions, the majority of the cast here are first time actors in the vocal capacity, and what stems from it is an unleashing of colorful personalities that help each bring their characters to life. Chloe Bennet is someone I’ve always felt is minutes away from a big screen breakthrough, and it’s possible that her role as Yi might grant her the buzzworthy praise that she deserves. Chloe combines the essence of teenage ambition with the maturity of parental care and guidance, and it etches out a female protagonist that little girls and boys can equally value for how her spontaneity really brings out the coolness in her. Equally captivating is Tenzing Trainor as this whirlwind little boy whose obsession with basketball and soda is only surpassed by his rampant personality, which is delivered through a series of visual sight gags that anyone who isn’t a cartoon would be laying unconscious from. Sarah Paulson also disappears in an antagonist role that would make her a shoe-in for the next Cruella Deville if Emma Stone wasn’t already signed.
– Antagonist twist. Most of the screenplay hits the familiar beats and tropes that you would expect of a movie with this derivative of a plot, but there is one twist in the final minutes of the second act which deconstructs everything the previous half of the film already established. Why this pleases me is the central antagonist up to this point was as a conventionally vapid as an animated movie could allow, but this unconventional spin brings forth the female empowerment of the film in a way that refreshes the final conflict better than the initial set-up ever could. Decades of Disney animated films didn’t prepare me for what transpired, and thanks to a timely switcheroo, the film’s second half re-established the stakes in a way that is beneficial to the film.
– The movie’s peak. Without spoiling anything, this scene is easily my favorite of the movie, and revolves around a moment of closure that is made even more riveting by the audible capacity of Coldplay’s “Fix You” cementing the emotional sting. If this isn’t enough, we are visually entranced by a colorful lighting scheme that, and quote me on this one, is as attention-stealing as anything that Pixar has created in the last five years. What makes this scene so memorable for me, aside from everything that I mentioned above, is the way that it stands as the virtual crossroads for Yi, and promotes her to remembering her father’s memory in the way that he would’ve wanted: by living life instead of talking about it, a motto that every audience member should motivate themselves by.
– Lack of humor. While this is a dramatic adventure more than anything else, the overall lack of comedy firepower is something that I believe will have a negative impact on the film’s lasting image. I say that mostly in the regards of kids, as the film’s redundancy in material, combined with underwhelming punchlines, left every kid in my audience bored and searching for clarity in its intention. Considering its visual capacity attains a level of emotional registry that amazes us behind every turn, it’s a bit of a disappointment that the movie’s humor falls so flat, leaving us so few opportunities to bask in the glow of clever writing, where only a pleasurable release can allude to the good time we are having.
– Derivative plot. Anyone with even a 1500 movie I.Q should be able to sniff out the traces of familiarity within this plot that gives it an overall lack of originality within its clutches. Let’s see, a creature invades the home of a kid, who then goes on a mission to return it home. Either the screenwriters have watched “E.T” one time too many, or the coincidences are remarkably striking. If you don’t believe that example, maybe you will believe the fact that this movie shamelessly lifts lines of dialogue from that exact movie, leaving me to wonder if this film was intentionally spoofing that movie in all of the wrong ways. Beyond this, I couldn’t escape how strikingly similar that Everest was to Toothless from the “How To Train Your Dragon” franchise. He’s big, he flies, he possesses magic powers, and he only communicates with grunts and groans. I can appreciate a film admiring the single greatest animated trilogy of all time, but to offer no distinguishing contrasts to his traits and personalities practically leaves you ripe for the picking in the critical eye.
– Illogical instances. While I commended the movie earlier for restricting Asian stereotypes from the film, the lack of accents or even Chinese speaking citizens is something that I can’t overlook for the film’s geographical setting. This gives the film a lack of detail with its setting that proves it could’ve been depicted anywhere on the globe, and the film’s decision to persist without any sense of Asian style or culture is something that limits its appeal to its foreign audience. Besides that, this whole road trip that happens spontaneously by Yi lacks any kind of urgency from those waiting for her at home. For instance, never once in the film does Yi’s mother of grandmother worry or contact the authorities in trying to reach out to track her down. Three people go missing, and no one on the homefront lifts a single finger to show concern. It’s every bit as much of a fantasy as the film’s animated elaboracy, but for all of the wrong reasons.
My Grade: 7/10 or C