This animated film from
Dreamworks is a delightful surprise. It
begins with a prison break, from the standpoint of the one trying to
escape. It turns out that the
escapee is a Yeti, the near-mythological “abominable snowman” of the
Himalayas. He’s wounded, but
finally finds refuge on a roof, under some clothes on a clothesline.
Meanwhile, Yi (the voice of
Chloe Bennet) lives with her Mom and grandmother in a small upstairs
apartment, in a big Chinese city. She’s
a busy little girl, taking on lots of little jobs from the people living
around her: from dog-walking
to baby-sitting to emptying the trash from a restaurant kitchen.
She’s trying to save money for her planned trip through China,
the one that her father wanted to take with her, except that he died.
Yi is obviously still
grieving for her Dad, because she keeps his picture in her violin case.
She’s been so busy she’s emotionally distancing herself from
her mother and grandmother without really realizing it (she won’t play
the violin for them anymore, only by herself on the roof).
They’re loving and attentive, but she’s just not opening up to
them. Nor does she pay much
attention to her cousins living down the hall, one boy older and the other
Everything changes when Yi
finds the Yeti on her roof. Yi
is frightened at first, and so is the Yeti.
But she brings him food (her grandmother’s homemade pork rolls),
and tends his wound, and now she has a new animal friend, except it’s
obvious to her that the “bad people” are trying to recapture their
prized animal, presumably for display but actually for invasive research.
Either way, the Yeti makes it clear that he wants to go to Everest,
pictured by a nearby billboard. So
Yi names him “Everest.”
Now Yi has another focus for
her hard-earned yen. She
escapes with the Yeti, along with her two cousins, and thus begins the
adventure across China that she’d always wanted to take.
Along the way, she
learns to appreciate her cousins more, the older one because he turns out
to be more resourceful than she thought, and the younger one because he
brings out the playfulness of Everest, whom they now realize is just a
child himself. He’s looking
to go home.
Since the bad guys are
constantly on their trail, sometimes Everest will use his magic powers to
help them escape. All he has
to do is make musical sounds within himself (like a cello), and nature
responds. Everest also reacts
positively to Yi’s violin playing, and occasionally they “duet,”
which produces an instant blossoming of lovely flowers all around them.
The most spiritual moment is saved for visiting the giant Buddha,
where just for a few moments, all seems right with the world.
Until their pursuers catch up to them again.
It's not just about getting
Everest home again. There’s
also transformation that takes place in the characters, including both
cousins, and Yi herself, and even one of the “bad guys.”
So yes, it’s about the journey more than the destination, because
even after the destination, there’s always personal growth.
It’s a sublime, charming
tale that people of all ages can appreciate.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW
Film Critics Association