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Himalayan yetis have, for a while now, come around the bend from fierce and mysterious to soft and cuddly, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that Abominable plays like the intensely sweet, kid-safe movie it is. After a discordant, John Carpenter-esque POV intro shot that brings us vividly into the plight of a creature escaping a high-tech lab, this otherwise toothless animated feature eases into a predictable groove (one that Chinese co-producer Pearl Studio no doubt insisted on). It’s basically E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial beat for beat, with scrappy Chinese tomboy Yi (voiced by Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Chloe Bennet) as the fatherless loner who makes a secret new friend, and steamed pork buns subbing in for Reese’s Pieces. She and her soon-to-be besties must transport the monster, nicknamed Everest, back to his distant homeland, all while evading paramilitary types and some evil scientists (including a purring Sarah Paulson).
There’s comfort to be had in executing on such a durable formula, and – life lessons accompanied by Coldplay’s treacly 'Fix You' aside – Abominable usually resembles the swift adventure it wants to be. Occasionally the animation transcends the typical: You can see every pillowy hair on Everest’s wide belly (all the better for Totoro-like naps). Sometimes the movie bursts into psychedelic passages, like when the yeti is revealed to have nature-altering powers, transforming fields of flowers into crashing waves. Particularly young viewers will be delighted by the colourful rush, but there’s real value in Yi’s frequent violin solos (the sensitive playing is by Mark Berrow), which attune the film to a different frequency. Parents shouldn’t brace for requests for string instruments, though – not when there’s an adorable fluffy beast to be purchased.
By Joshua Rothkopf