No stranger to crafting stories that push the boundaries of reality and spark viewers’ imaginations, DreamWorks Animation invites audiences to take a journey to the Himalayas in Abominable, an original tale of friendship and healing that’s just the right mix of serious and silly.
It’s easy to feel alone and disconnected in the big city. The seamless collaboration between writer/director Jill Culton (Open Season) and co-director Todd Wilderman (Open Season 2) explores this notion via Hong Kong teenager Yi (voiced by Chloe Bennet, ABC‘s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”), her young neighbor Peng (Albert Tsai, ABC‘s “Dr. Ken”) and his university-bound cousin Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor, Disney‘s “Liv and Maddie”), each of whom are searching for connection in different ways. After getting swept up in the wake of a lost yeti and his pursuers — aging adventurer Mr. Burnish (Eddie Izzard) and zoologist Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulson) — the trio embarks on a thrilling adventure across China to return the yeti to his family on Mt. Everest and, in turn, find the things they’ve been searching for within themselves.
In addition to creating the story for Pixar’s Monsters, Inc., Culton has worked on several other DreamWorks productions, so it’s no surprise that Abominable has everything fans expect from a DreamWorks film. The quirky characters, narrative-challenging perspectives and moments of absolute wonder are all there. Plus, the vocal cast does a great job of bringing the characters to life, making them more nuanced as the story progresses and each central player grows in compelling, relatable ways.
But what may come as a surprise is the extent to which Abominable is a story of healing — specifically one rooted in allowing oneself to mend. The film also explores how we can become so locked in by our grief that we forget how one tragedy impacts others. While serious matters might suggest the film is a grim, dark affair, trust that it’s primarily a positive tale about restoration and balance. The exploration of these themes translates to bright and cheery visuals, with softened moments of danger and magical elements tied to repairing nature.
Dubbed “Everest” by his new human friends, the friendly beast possesses the ability to tap into the natural world, a talent that’s depicted as a blue light emanating from within him when he hums a tune. A real Deus ex yeti, his gift comes in handy throughout the journey and it’s always nonviolent in nature and defensive rather than offensive. This approach not only creates an ideology of “violence as a last resort” comparable to that in DreamWorks brethren How to Train Your Dragon and its sequels, but also makes a clear line between man’s frequent disturbance of nature and nature’s desire for balance. If this sounds as if it’s not going to keep your little ones interested, don’t worry — there are plenty of glowing lights, swashbuckling action and exotic animals to keep them entertained. If the audience at my screening is any indication, viewers of all ages will find something to entrance them.
Abominable may lack the music of Trolls, the bodily humor of Shrek and the reality warping of The Boss Baby, but it maintains the sense of wonder that all of these films and others instill. These are stories in which relationships are the central focus amid a great deal of adventure, drama and a touch of magic. With such connections likewise the foundation for Abominable, audiences are in for a fun, far-flung adventure that takes them from the bustling city of Hong Kong through the beautiful countryside to the highest peak of the Himalayas. These are but set dressings, however, to Abominable‘s lovely reminder that it doesn’t matter where you go, but with whom you travel.
Starts Sept. 27