As the credits began to roll there was no small amount of applause at the press screening I attended for “Abominable.” Children in the audience laughed throughout the movie and adults several times as well, so this ought not have come as a terrible surprise. However, I confess, I was shocked. I found the tale, written and directed by Jill Culton, offensive. “Abominable” repeatedly insults its audience, defying its own established logic in an effort to provoke reactions or progress the story.
It is true that clever and cute scenes do exist in this tale of three friends—Yi (Chloe Bennet), Peng (Albert Tsai), and Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor)—bringing a baby Yeti Yi names Everest (Joseph Izzo) from the city back to his home in the Himalayas. Yet, these good elements are buried under an avalanche of hubristic moments thrown in specifically to enhance the drama or cause a laugh but which fail to fit in any way with what comes before or after.
As one example, the morning after meeting Everest, Yi runs to a pharmacy to get bandages for a wound the Yeti has suffered. On her way back, she sees a recent accident clearly caused by the Yeti. Returning to the roof where she has hidden the Yeti in a makeshift room on the roof, she finds Everest still there. Did Everest leave the roof and quickly head back once he had this accident? The audience must assume so, but later in the movie when Everest attempts to hide elsewhere, he does so in poor and clumsy fashion, knocking things down. There is no way then that the Yeti could have gotten back inside the small hidden space Yi created for him on the roof after the crash.
At other points, Everest has the ability to fly his friends around on the wind using his magical humming powers. The scenes where does this are amusing and gorgeously rendered. The scenes where he opts to not take this route so that the whole group gets lost or is held at gun point by the evil folks who want to capture Everest are perplexing at best and always truly disappointing. Those are where Everest most needs to use his wind-summoning flying powers, where his powers could save them all, but he opts not to for no particular reason other than the obvious dramatic need for a final confrontation with Burnish (Eddie Izzard), the man who wants to reveal Yetis to the world and his aide, Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulson).
Yi, the leader of the troop, is still feeling the effects of her father’s death as the movie begins. She keeps herself busy all the time, earning money so that she can go on a trip all over China that her father had planned out. Later, when discuss with Jin why she stays so busy, she says she doesn’t know why she is doing all the things she does. The clear implication here is that she’s just staying busy to avoid thinking about her dad… except that the film has already told us that she’s doing all these odd jobs to raise money for the trip. It’s perfectly clear why it’s happening, except now “Abominable” would change things for dramatic purposes.
Such problems exist throughout the movie – at their first meeting, Everest puts on a huge and scary show, threatening Yi with violence. In the very same scene, Yi hides Everest from helicopters clearly looking for the escaped creature. She, in essence, goes from being scared that the terrifying creature is about to murder her to protecting him from those who, presumably, want to help her. It’s ludicrous.
There are weird assumptions Yi and her friends make which have to be right for the movie to progress. There is at least one moment where it goes from being daytime to being night without explanation. Then, there’s the fact that the journey somehow, in no explainable way, matches the one Yi’s father wanted to go on. This is pointed out for no reason and then dropped completely from the story. How these things are linked is not explained.
“Abominable” is a never-ending series of these sorts of incidents; they may heighten the drama and they may push Everest ever closer to the Himalayas, and it may be possible to offer poor, twisted, logic to get past some of them, but they occur too often and go too far.
Is the Yeti fur gorgeous to look at and the music lovely? Oh, absolutely. There are even a good number of really funny moments. But none of that makes of for the blizzard of offensiveness heaped down on the audience. It’s all just too much to shovel out of the way.
photo credit: Universal Pictures