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I'm relatively certain that I've mentioned in the past recent reviews that I've lately been watching movies with my son in mind, and Abominable was the latest example of that. We saw the trailer a few times, with him asking to see "the snowman movie," and we had actually planned to see it at one point, but the life of a three-year-old can be fluid, and we did not get a chance to. Bless up to DVD Talk for allowing me to properly bond with my son!
Written by Jill Culton (Monsters, Inc.), who co-directed with Todd Wilderman (Open Season 2), the computer animated film focuses on Yi (Chloe Bennett, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), who discovers a Yeti (Joseph Izzo, Kung Fu Panda 2), living in the streets of China and fleeing from those who want to exploit him. Yi and his family want to try and take him back to his family and avoid capture.
From the opening moments Abominable sets out to try and be as authentic to China as possible, and the protagonists largely being unknown but rooted in Asian backgrounds help with this. Her friends Peng (Albert Tsai, Dr. Ken) and Jin (Tenzing Norgray Trainor, Liv and Maddie) along with her grandmother Nai Nai (Tsai Chin, Casino Royale) realize this. The two antagonists are Anglo; Burnish (Eddie Izzard, Cars 2) is an older English philanthropist who remembers meeting the Yeti as a youngster and wants to meet him in the flesh again. Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulson, Glass) is a zoologist who may not be what she portrays herself. Of the group, she gets the chance to show off the most and turns out being a better than expected villain.
Unfortunately the film tends to be little more than hitting the broad strokes of things without getting deep; the jokes are fine yet briefly funny, the moments are poignant and quick (they even used "Fix You" to try and land some of them!), and the story tends to come and go without being overly memorable or long-lasting. It wants to be Chinese and do Chinese things, but when it comes to trying to make an emotional connection, feels like…some Americans trying to mimic these virtues, so when the rubber hits the road that is where the flaws pop up.
Everest tends to be fun as a yeti, but in terms of distinguishing features, Abominable lacks anything truly resonating. The creature is fun, the task to get him back to the mountains is not without peril, but its peril can be kept at arm's length. It may (and probably does) work better for the youngsters in your life.
The Blu-ray of Abominable looks great, as you'd expect from folks who are more than familiar with working in the medium to be. Colors pop on screen whether it is the darkness of the streets at night, or the lush greens and yellows of the China landscapes. When Everest provides his roar, the screen brightens and occasional blues come out vividly, set against his (its?) white fur. You get an image with loads of detail and minimal image issues, and the result is great.
Dolby Atmos is fine and gets a chance to bring the subwoofer in during the frequent roars, and dialogue sounds good. Occasional dynamic moments lack a little in the immersion levels, and the early moments of the film do not possess much in the same way, nor do they have moments of channel panning that would make things more convincing. It's a solid soundtrack, but a little underachieving.
A surprising amount of extras geared both towards kids and to disc nerds, met to varying results. "Marooned" (7:24) is a Dreamworks short in the vein of Wall-E, while "Show and Tell" (2:50) focuses more on the subject of the feature, albeit briefly. Next are four deleted scenes (10:30) with introductions for each, all in unfinished audio and animation, with the filmmakers going over why they were cut. "Making a Myth" (6:58) shows us the inspiration for the film, thoughts on the story from the cast and crew and the challenge of the recording sessions. "Animating ‘Abominable'" (5:12) gives us the intent and challenges of making the film technically.
There are a series of featurettes on the cast (5, 8:22) that cover some of the same ground as the past segments do, and "Your Yeti Care Guide" (2:28) is a little more focused on the creature. "Courage to Dream" (3:04) gets into the star, while "A Tour with Chloe Bennett" (4:41) is a Wikipedia of sorts on China in city and country details. "Everest's Talk Box" (4:35) shows some kids watch as the sausage is made for the creature, and "Cooking with Nai Nai" (4:03) gives a peek into making dumplings. "How to Draw Abominable" is a multi-part segment on just that (20:36), and you can also make a Chinese lantern (3:47). "You Can Speak Yeti-ese" (3:47) shows us what the roars and growls mean; while "Nai Nai Says" (1:48) is a look at her philosophy. A commentary with Culton, Wilderman, producers Suzanne Buirgy and Peilin Chou, production designer Max Boas, visual effects supervisor Mark Edwards and Character Animation Head John Hill gets into the technical aspects of the film, shot adjustments, recalling the fun brain cramming idea sessions during the production and the challenges in getting a moment to work. It's a decent track that you can listen to once.
There is little question Abominable is geared towards the little one in your house, or those you know. And everything is geared towards that purpose in the film, but taking a step back from it, the grown-up will see that the film is not really that special. So you may be putting this on a few times for your child while you get stuff done, which is great! Technically the extras are abundant and most are worthwhile, and the disc could be better but looks good for the target audience. A strong rental recommendation at a minimum.