Abominable voice cast: Chole Bennet, Albert Tsai, Tenzing Norgay Trainor, Joseph Izzo, Eddie Izzard, Sarah Paulson
Abominable movie director: Jill Culton
Abominable movie rating: 2 stars
Universal Studios notes that Abominable is the first female-directed animation feature with a female lead. When a film comes tagged like that, you have your antennas up, because Culton, who became the first female principal director of a big-budget, computer-animated feature with Open Season, back in 2006, should surely need no such qualification.
There is another thing that should have made Abominable special. The film, produced by Dreamworks and Shanghai-based Pearl Studio, is based in China, with largely Chinese characters. However, nobody says China out loud, the country gets referenced only in a map and in the context of Beijing University, the actors all speak English and have features that could easily pass off as Caucasian, the villain is a generic Hollywood type with generic, sinister MNC agendas, and the only recognisable brand on screen is McDonald’s.
There is nothing political about Abominable though. A girl called Yi (voiced by 27-year-old Bennet) has secluded herself from her mother and grandmother after her father’s death, and spends her days doing chores of all kinds to rustle up enough money for a trip around China. At nights, she goes up to the terrace and plays mournful tunes on her violin, taught to her by her father. One such night, she encounters a terrified Yeti (Izzo) on her terrace, who has escaped from a lab where they were planning all kinds of experiments on him. The film is about Yi trying to return Yeti to his home in the Everest, helped by friends Peng (Tsai) and Jin (Trainor), while evil scientist (Paulson) and the aforesaid MNC owner (Izzard) chase them with a team of armed men in armed vehicles.
Abominable is often beautiful to look at, as the road to Everest is laid out in all its beauty but little of its harshness. The ‘magic’ Yeti wields, because of “its power to talk to nature”, is exquisite at times — especially when he gets fields full of yellow flowers to undulate like waves. However, the story itself is flat, predictable and moves inexorably slowly to its end.
There is one reason you may want to see Abominable though. In a rather clever bit of casting, Trainor who voices Jin is the grandson of Tenzing Norgay, who along with Edmund Hillary were the first two men to climb Everest. An ideal Chinese kid who is set for a medical degree, yet obsessed with his looks and selfies, Jin is the cleverest character in the film.