DreamWorks is an animation studio that I admire. Since they were founded in 1994, they have gone on to craft some of the best-animated movies ever made featuring some great stories, fun characters, and beautiful animation to top it off. They know how to make great animated movies. Unfortunately, this decade has not been a strong one for them. This was a decade where they've had many more misfires than the previous decade. Despite very strong entries like the "How to Train Your Dragon" trilogy, the "Kung Fu Panda" sequels, and "Rise of the Guardians", and some other fun animated films like "The Croods" and "Captain Underpants", they've put out duds like "Home", "Trolls", and "The Boss Baby". Fortunately, "Abominable" is not a dud. This is a really good film from them and surprisingly effective. It may be far from there strongest work, but it has some great moments in it.
In Shanghai, a teenage girl named Yi (Chloe Bennet) has been living a busy life to cope with her father's recent death. Instead of spending time with her mother (Michelle Wong) and grandmother Nai Nai (Tsai Chen) she's been doing many jobs to try to earn enough money to travel around China. One day though, she comes across a young yeti on the roof of her apartment that escaped from a wealthy man name Burnish (Eddie Izzard) and the zoologist that works for him Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulson). Realizing that the yeti, who she calls Everest, is far from home, Yi sets off on a journey to the Himalayas while her mischievous friend Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) and his cousin Peng (Albert Tsai) come along on a vast journey across China while avoiding Burnish and his employees.
While the film does have a familiar story at times, it's still very well told. Director Jill Culton knew how to pace this movie perfectly which could come from her time as a story artist at Pixar during their early days. The film doesn't feel overly long and every scene doesn't drag out and slow down the pacing. This is one of the few animated movies that knew how to keep perfect pacing. Right from the opening shot of the film, you're right in the story. No heavy-handed exposition, the story just plays out as its told and it's great. The film also has a beautiful use of visual storytelling as well and the audience isn't spoon-fed details about certain moments. Not only that, there are some beautiful scenes. The best scenes in the film come where Everest uses magic which heightens the story and the animation. Speaking of the animation, it's honestly some of the best DreamWorks has made. Every scene is beautifully rendered and the scenes where Everest uses his magic is simply a delight to the eyes. The one that stood out to me, in particular, was where the group was floating in a boat down a field of flowers. Also, I got to give praise to the character designs by Nico Marlet. They were superbly done and I always love seeing his work. He made Everest adorable in particular. Speaking of the characters though, they might be the weakest element of the film. Yi is a good protagonist. She's determined but doesn't get overly sentimental and there isn't a moment where she mopes and feels like giving up. Everest is also adorable as well. He has a childlike innocence to him and can lead to some cute moments. I think the characters that did grate on me at times were Jin and Peng. Jin started off as unlikeable since he cared more for his good looks and expensive outfits and got under my skin with his obnoxious attitude that reminded me of a spoiled rich girl while Peng can get a little annoying being overly goofy and carefree. The two, however, did get a lot better towards the third act though. The villains were not great either. They just feel standard at best which I, unfortunately, was expecting from the beginning. Also, despite it's sometimes effective and beautiful scenes, it doesn't quite have the comedy or emotional impact that "Kung Fu Panda" or "How To Train Your Dragon" captured perfectly. There are some great moments in this film, but I don't think it's quite as strong as what DreamWorks was hoping for.
Still though, "Abominable" is a charming enough film. Its story can be familiar at times but is still well-told, it's animation is gorgeously done and some of the best DreamWorks has made, and some of the characters can be a little weak but others work well. This may not be a great DreamWorks movie, but it's still a good one and I'll take anything good any day over bad. Films like this give me some hope that DreamWorks does well in the next decade. We'll just have to see what they come up with next. Here's hoping it's good or even great.