Once in awhile someone does an animated feature that is as sweet as it is fun. They’re deep in places for adults but on the surface it’s slapstick enough to appeal to children.
That’s “Abominable” in spades. Plenty for everyone.
Abominable is — of course — a Yeti. The movie is set in China and opens with him using magical powers to escape from a laboratory zoo. He’s part proof of Yeti existence and part pet. Once loose, the Yeti is chased by an army of armed helicopters and motor vehicles. The creature bing-bongs through the city and finally ends up hiding on a rooftop.
It’s on the apartment building where Yi lives. She’s a misfit teen missing her late father and the dreams he had of taking her and her mom and grandma on a trip across China. While on the roof playing her violin, Yi discovers the terrified creature, feeds it and figures out that he was captured and taken to Shanghai from Mount Everest.
Yi and two other kids name him Everest, set out to cross the continent to take the poor guy home. The trip requires braving the elements and avoiding his captors. It’s the usual not-so-easy-task found in animated movies of this variety.
As a concept, “Abominable” is original and then it isn’t. Animated movies of all kinds have bad guys chasing good guys human or not. No surprise there. This movie’s villains are so-so. The biologist and the billionaire each have their warped reasons for catching the snowman.
The humans and creatures being chased in “Abominable” aren’t all that original either. Also no surprise. Where this one separates from the pack and becomes very original is in the writing and some of the animation.
The kids and the Yeti are rich, deep characters. Their dilemmas are predictable and so are their solutions. But something about them feels real. They’re very teenage, wide-eyed and innocent one minute and wise beyond their years the next.
Their depth comes from co-director Jill Culton and her brilliant script. It’s packed with the kind of love and hope that typifies the typical teenager. She also loads it with magic that ranges from presto zappo stuff to the kind of magic that is only found in three-dimensional relationships.
This is no surprise. Culton’s resume includes being part of the team that came up with the original story for “Monsters, Inc.” It is not only one of the best animated features ever done, but it is one of the best movies ever and remains — 18-years after the original release — one of my all time favorite films.
With “Monsters, Inc.” Culton and her co-creators developed characters you wanted to take home with you as you left the theater. This is especially true of Boo, the young girl who accidentally ends up at Monsters, Inc.
Culton — who also co-wrote and co-directed “Open Season” — and co-director Todd Wilderman (“Open Season 2”) do the same thing here. Who won’t want to know more about these kids, or wonder what happens to Everest when he’s returned to the wild?
You fall in love with him and them.
Culton’s script has the most fun with how Everest’s magical powers interact with three kids. They are sometimes as much a curse as a blessing. It saves them sometimes and gets them in trouble in other places. Yi — in the middle of mourning the tragic death of her father — needs his magic the most.
Love blooms there.
Jin is Yi’s age. He’s dressed to the nines, is overly socially conscious and fairly shallow. He and Yi have a strained relationship. At first he thinks once they get Everest out of the city he should be on his own. That, and his personality and view of life — predictably but still wonderfully — changes as the three kids and their monster friend continue to bond.
Jeng is the youngest of the three, and he and the Yeti bounce about the movie with reckless abandon. They provide the slapstick laughs that will hook kids.
Culton and Wilderman also pack the movie with wonderful special effects and artwork that is original yet not. That leads us back to a statement I made earlier when I said, “Abominable” is original but at the same time, it isn’t.
It is — however — a sweet movie that is as magical for older moviegoers as it is for children. And it’s really fun magic. The Yeti is as goofy as the teenagers trying to save him and — in spite of the dangers — they all have a blast.
So will you.
Plus — and maybe best of all — Culton gives you a two-hanky ending, and the beautiful and fun photographs in the credits will make you wish you’d brought another hanky with you. They are the closest you’re going to get to taking these characters home and I strongly encourage you to stay for them. I guarantee they — and this movie — will have you leaving the theater grinning from ear-to-ear.
▪ Rated PG for mature themes. It’s playing at the AMC Classic Kennewick 12, at the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
▪ Rating: 5 out of 5