Abominable

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 one younger. 

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