In the past year I have seen three different movies that have all tried to capture the magic of the original How to Train Your Dragon film. The first was Bumblebee, which made my top ten list last year. The second was How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (my review of it can be read here), which, while good, probably won’t make my top ten list from this year (which is a tragedy, because of how much I love the previous two films). And obviously the third film is Dreamworks’ Abominable.
This movie takes place in China, and it follows a lovable yeti who is named ‘Everest’ by a local teenager, Yi. After finding Everest on the roof of her apartment building. Yi and her two friends embark on a quest to reunite the yeti with his family, especially after they find out he is being hunted by a team of mercenaries and a zoologist funded by a billionaire explorer bent on being proven right about its existence.
As I suggested above, Abominable REALLY wants to be a HTTYD film, and it’s not subtle about it. There is actually a scene where a blanket covers Everest and it makes him look like Toothless, the main dragon from the aforementioned series. And that scene definitely parrots the ‘Forbidden Friendship’ scene in the first HTTYD, sometimes shot for shot. It was produced by the same studio that did those movies, Dreamworks, so it does make sense that they would try to recapture what made those films so special. However, it only reminded me of how much I loved those movies and didn’t really endear me to this story.
The movie also employs what is becoming a surprisingly overused trope: the jilted explorer antagonist doing anything to be taken seriously. As Pixar’s Up! and Paddington proved, it can be a great plot device, but sadly it doesn’t work in Abominable. It does try to be a bit subversive in this way, but the characters aren’t fleshed out enough to make it effective.
Now, there are a few funny bits, but the movie almost never strays from simple, kid-oriented humor. This is pretty typical of Dreamworks movies; they tend to cater to children’s sensibilities instead of trying to make it for both adults and children like Pixar and Disney do. I laughed once really hard, but hardly chuckled otherwise.
Where the movie does shine is in its use of music and magic. The main character Yi, voiced by the amazing Chloe Bennet, is a violinist whose father passed away recently. The violin she uses was her father’s and that connection makes every time she plays it a melancholy moment. And the yeti even gets involved in the music by humming and adds literal magic to the mix. The composer, Rupert Gregson-Williams, is among the best film composers working today and he really does provide a great score in this film.
Abominable borrows heavily from other films and straight up copies some of the storytelling elements from another Dreamworks franchise. This makes it both enjoyable in parts and very tired in others. Kids will likely enjoy it, while adults will only be mildly pleased.