“There’s a yeti on my roof!”
Say what? Says who?
Says Yi (Chloe Bennet), the teen heroine of the charming animated kids movie “Abominable.”
Abominable the yeti is not. Rather, he’s a snaggletoothed white fur-ball with a friendly disposition who finds himself hunted by an evil gazillionaire (Eddie Izzard) who wants him as a trophy, dead or alive.
An escapee from the evil one’s high-tech research lab, the poor thing is on the run through a shining Chinese metropolis when he ends up cowering on the roof of Yi’s humble apartment building. Hearing him moaning and rumbling behind some stacked-up junk (he doesn’t speak), Yi intuits he’s in distress and in need of a friend and protector. He’s alone and far from home, which she quickly learns is Mount Everest. So she assumes the mantle of protectorship and vows to somehow return him to his mountain home. As she does so, a beautiful friendship is formed.
And it is indeed truly beautiful.
She and the beast and two of her young friends (Tenzing Norgay Trainor and Albert Tsai) set out on an odyssey that takes them across China and to the Himalayas. En route, co-writer/director Jill Culton (Todd Wilderman shares screenplay credit) and the picture’s CGI wizards create imagery suffused with magic.
The young people float aloft on giant dandelion puffballs. Later, they ride a whirlwind, “Wizard of Oz” style. And finally they surf the sky on delicate pinkish-blue clouds in the shape of ghostly koi.
Lovely, all of it.
Loveliest of all, though, is a scene in which Yi is deposited at the base of a giant Buddha statue shrouded in mountain mists. There, she plays a plaintive song on her violin, a treasured keepsake she inherited from her late beloved father that she carries with her everywhere. As she plays, white flowers bloom all around.
The violin is a key element of the story. It belonged to Yi’s father, whom she adored and whose death has left her bereft and emotionally isolated from her mother (Michelle Wong) and grandmother (Tsai Chin).
Protecting the yeti, whom she names Everest, gives her life purpose and meaning that she lost when her father died.
The music, delicately integrated into the story, expresses her sorrow and later her hopefulness. Not incidentally, it soothes the beast and emotionally binds him to her.
There is literal magic in their relationship. It’s Everest’s powers of enchantment that conjure up the koi clouds and at several points in the story bring forth the shimmering aurora borealis.
The cross-continent chase (the evil gazillionaire and his hench-scientist, voiced by Sarah Paulson, are ever in hot pursuit) gives Culton ample opportunities to sprinkle in slapstick scenes, many of them involving Tsai’s rambunctious character and Everest, roughhousing like the kids they are (Everest is quite young).
“Abominable” is the product of a joint collaboration between DreamWorks Animation and the China-based Pearl Studio. The main voice actors all have Asian family backgrounds, and Tenzing Norgay Trainor has a unique connection to the story. He is the grandson of Tenzing Norgay, the Sherpa who along with Edmund Hillary were the first men to have successfully summited Mount Everest in 1953.
The dialogue is all spoken in English, and the performances, particularly Bennet’s, are well-done.
The story is strong, the music is appealing. “Abominable” is delightful.
★★★½ “Abominable,” with the voices of Chloe Bennet, Tenzing Norgay Trainor, Albert Tsai, Eddie Izzard, Sarah Paulson, Tsai Chin, Michelle Wong. Directed by Jill Culton and Todd Wilderman, from a screenplay by Culton. 97 minutes. Rated PG for some action and mild rude humor. Opens Sept. 27 at multiple theaters.