REVIEW: ‘Abominable’ is a touching film about grief, healing
September 27th, 2019 / By: Michael Foust / comments
Yi is a busy young woman living with her mother and grandmother in Shanghai, China.
During the day, she makes cash doing odds jobs -- taking out trash, walking pets through the city, and babysitting small children.
At night, though, she lays in bed, thinking about how things used to be when her father was still alive. Sometimes, she even sneaks up on the roof to play his old violin.
“She misses her dad,” her grandmother says.
If only Yi had a close friend.
Perhaps a mythical hairy creature would help her cope. And that’s exactly what happens.
One night while playing a favorite tune on the roof of her apartment building, Yi sees a huge, white-haired creature hiding in the shadows. It is a …. yeti.
With an armed helicopter chasing this beast, Yi helps it hide, and then bandages its wounds and feeds it.
“I don’t know where you come from, but you sure don’t belong here,” she tells him.
Can Yi help the yeti find his home before he is captured and killed by researchers?
The DreamWorks animated film Abominable(PG) opens this weekend, telling the story of a girl who sets out on a quest with two neighbors to return the yeti, named Everest, to his mountainous home. (You guessed it: He’s from Everest.)
It stars Chloe Bennet (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) as Yi, Albert Tsai (Coop and Cami Ask the World) as her friend Peng, and Tenzing Norgay Trainor (Liv and Maddie) as another friend, Jin.
Abominableis similar to other child-meets-creature-and-learns-lesson movies of the past, including E.T., Pete’s Dragonand Home. Although it may not be as entertaining as those other films, it’s still pretty good, and it’s filled with positive messages about healing from grief. Moviegoers who have lost a family member recently will share Yi’s pain.
The yeti -- in case you’re not up to speed -- is the mythical creature that supposedly lives in the snow of the Himalayan mountains. He’s often called the Abominable Snowman.
In Abominable, Yi and the Yeti have similar needs. They’re each lonely. They’re each running away from something (she from reality; he from the bad guys). And they’re each longing for something significant (her -- a closer relationship with her family; him -- his home in Mt. Everest).
The movie is mostly family friendly, although it does have a few worldview elements that will concern some parents (more on that below).
Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!
(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)
Minimal/moderate. The movie opens with Yi being chased by the bad guys. (They had captured him and stored him in a research lab.) He escapes and then is hit by a car, but survives. Everest growls several times in the film, but he’s mostly a lovable creature who just wants to play. (He’s a yeti child.) Those bad guys don’t give up, and chase Everest throughout the film with tranquilizer guns. We see unmanned drones corner Yi and her friends. The film’s ending might frighten sensitive children. (Yi is pushed off a tall bridge and is presumed dead, but survives.)
Minimal. Jin’s popularity among teens girls is a running joke. We see him preparing for a date.
None. Two instances of “oh my gosh.” One “you idiot.”
Other Positive Elements
Yi’s mother and grandmother truly care for her. They’re also patient with her when she is frustrated with life.
Other Stuff You Might Want To Know
The grandmother jokes that she only plays basketball “for money.” Everest the yeti is magical.
Peng and Yi say they learned that the stars are “ancestors who watch over us.”
Yi, while on her way to Mt. Everest, stops at the Leshan Giant Buddha, a Mt. Rushmore-type sculpture of Maitreya (or the Buddha yet to come).
Friendship is a blessing: Yi needs a friend, and she finds it in Everest and two neighbors.
Arrogance is not attractive: Yi’s neighbor/friend, Jin, considers himself a lady’s man who dresses like he belongs in a boy band. He’s also self-centered.
Grief is a process: The movie doesn’t tell us how long Yi has been without her father, but it implies it’s been several months, if not longer. Yi carries around a picture of her father in her violin case. She acknowledges she’s stayed busy to suppress the pain -- and has yet to stop and cry.
Children need a family: Yes, teens sometimes act embarrassed around parents, but Abominableaffirms the necessity of the family structure, including that of a mother and father. (Her dad formerly played the violin for her.)
First, the good. Abominable, much like Pete’s Dragon, can teach children a simple lesson about our world: Science can’t explain everything. “Yetis don’t exist,” Jin tells Yi. But in her world, they do. Similarly, in our world, people often reject the existence of God, pointing to (supposedly) scientific evidence. Kids innately know better.
Now, for the problematic. Abominableisn’t as overt in its unbiblical worldview as Moanaor Coco, but it’s still there. We learn that Yi’s father longed to take her to the Leshan Giant Buddha statue, and then we see it up close, as she takes her time exploring it. (“What’s that?” my 11-year-old son asked. “A false God,” I told him in a two-second movie explanation.) We also hear Peng say that stars are “ancestors who watch over us.” Except for that one line, little to nothing else is heard about traditional Chinese religious beliefs.
Everest the yeti is magical, and he is able to control nature -- including the growth of flowers and other plants -- simply by closing his eyes and humming. (His body glows, too.) We are told he “talks to nature.”
If you take the children, then be prepared for a worldview discussion on the ride home.
The film’s message about grief is a good one. Yi learns to celebrate her father’s memory and to rely on friends and family members for healing. Of course, the Bible has much more to say on the topic (Psalm 34:18, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4) that is worth exploring.
Little Debbie, Luigi’s Italian Ice, Bearpaw, Yogurtland, FAO Schwartz and East West Bank.
The animation. The scenic landscapes. The education in cultural differences. (Grandma cooked dumplings that looked different than anything I’ve eaten.)
Everest’s magical powers. Yetis are Jedi-like? (So, that’s why we never seen one, huh?)
1. What helped Yi heal emotionally?
2. What does the Bible say about grief and healing? Do people heal from grief differently?
3. What was the movie’s message about social media? About arrogance? Was Jin likeable?
4. Is there someone you need to reach out to who is grieving?
Entertainment rating:3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating:4 out of 5 stars.
Abominable is rated PG for some action and mild rude humor.