Review by Daniel Blackaby September 27, 2019
Abominable (Movie Review)
A touching and delicate retelling of a familiar story.
About the Film
As a both a parent and a reviewer, I end up sitting through more children’s animated films than most adults do (or perhaps should!). This isn’t always a good thing. My review of Angry Birds 2 included the (well deserved) words “abomination” and “garbage heap.” The first film I reviewed for The Collision was the animated film Smallfoot—which featured animated yeti, as well as shockingly militant atheistic agenda that slammed “religion” with both sizable yeti fists (review here). As a result, I wasn’t sure what to expect with Abominable. Thankfully, this film does much to repair my low opinion of animated snow monsters. Abominable is not only a wonderfully crafted and touching story, it might also be my favorite animated film in years.
Narratively, there is not much overly unique about the movie. The narrative is another retelling of the classic “kid and their dog” tale (ala How to Train Your Dragon, and E.T. , etc.). As with these other films, a child feels lost and is struggling with their grief and emotional baggage until they discover a magical creature. By helping the creature return home, the child ultimately find themselves as well. What separates Abominable from the heap of so many other recent animated films, however, is the delicacy and maturity that it handles this familiar story. The film respects children’s’ intelligence and ability to handle mature themes, without ever sacrificing the fun or entertainment. The end result is a surprisingly moving and emotional film that can be enjoyed by adults and children, alike.
On the Surface—(Profanity, Sexual content, violence, etc.).
Violence: The bad guys can be menacing (they openly talk about eliminating the children), and in several scenes they shoot the yeti with stunning darts.
Beneath the Surface— (Themes, philosophical messages, worldview, etc.)
- Coming “Home”
The film’s main protagonist, Yi (voiced by Agents of Shield’s Chloe Bennet) is a teenage girl struggling to deal with the death of her father. Similar protagonists in other films often deal with their grief with bouts of anger or open defiance at the world. Abominable takes a different and more understated approach. Yi remains respectful and caring toward her remaining family, even as she isolates herself. Throughout the story, she never becomes overly dramatic or lashes out; instead, processing the loss of her father in more a thoughtful and less of emotional manner. People deal with grief in many different ways, so it was nice for a movie to approach the theme of mourning and sorrow from an angle typically ignored in most movies.
As can be expected in a story like this, by the end of the film Yi has come to terms with her father’s death and is reenergized that—although her father will always be with her—her life must go on. On the surface, this a predicable cliché, Yet, because of the thoughtfulness that the film handles Yi’s journey to arrive there, this resolution feels earned and emotionally satisfying.
2. The Power of Music
Another prevalent theme is the power of music. This is depicted in a literal sense—the yeti’s magical powers are brought about by singing—but it is also explored in a figurative sense. Yi’s deceased father was a talented violinist and Yi continues to play his violin as a way to reconnect with him. There are several beautiful and emotionally resonate scenes that center around Yi playing her father’s violin. So many animated films today have bombastic and headache-inducing soundtracks, so it was very welcome and refreshing to have classical music play so prominent a role in both the story and the musical score.
Sadly, I feel that Abominable is a film that will be largely ignored and quickly forgotten. There was very little fanfare or hype leading up to the film. In fact, I was only vaguely aware of it until a week or two before its release. I can also understand and respect any critic or viewer who write the film off as just a “story we’ve seen a thousand times before.” They’re not wrong, but I’ve personally never been overly bothered by familiar tropes or storylines. Great narratives deserve retelling, and there is value when a retelling is done well. In this way, I believe Abominable soars.
Recommendation: This movie is worth seeing either in theaters on home video/streaming.