PG, because nothing is rated G anymore. This is as tame as I've seen a movie. I mean, it has bad guys. At one point, that bad guy gets to be kind of psychotic. But nothing all that threatening happens on screen. There's no bad language. Everything is just...chill. I don't mean that as a pun. It just is a very laid back movie that doesn't really have objectionable content. I suppose the PG is because there's action in the movie. But that's pretty minor in the grand scheme of kids' movies. PG.
DIRECTORS: Jill Culton and Todd Wilderman
I have a confession to make. I fell asleep for probably ten minutes of this movie. It's not completely the movie's fault. I was very sleepy and honestly wasn't in the mood to watch this. Normally, I have very hardcore rules about what I write about. If I haven't seen every minute of the movie, I didn't write about. What I did, instead, was find a way to watch the movie again. But those were the days where I would watch a movie a day and then write about it. I don't think I have it in me to watch this one again. It's not a burden or anything. It's just that this movie is exactly what I knew it was going to be: a kind of generic Dreamworks movie with a couple of pretty parts.
I think we've covered these grounds before. Sure, this particular trope hasn't been set in China, but the idea of evil scientists tracking down an escaped mythical creature was pretty well tread when we got E.T. You nerds who want to point out that the alien from E.T. wasn't mythical can shut your faces because he healed wounds with his light up finger. There are only so many kids movies. But I feel like the content from Abominable was covered pretty well in a dozen other movies. I'm actually way too sleepy to name those movies, but there doesn't seem to be anything that crazy going on here. My biggest beef, actually, comes from the fact that the movie is so generic that we don't really have motivations for the villains outside of "science, science, science" the entire movie. There's a hint of something to play off of with Burnish. Burnish was my favorite character, not because of anything that quality in the character, but because I closed my eyes and imagined Eddie Izzard in the booth emoting and probably questioning the importance of this project. Golly, I'm being harsh on this film. But you can imagine why I fell asleep with this movie. I kept closing my eyes. (Actually, I don't think I've ever made a more active choice to fall asleep. I debated the rightness of it all and realized that I would enjoy a quick nap versus a fairly standard Dreamworks movie.)
I'm being really rough on this movie. I didn't plan on being this mean, especially considering that I'm technically the one who cheated when it came to watching the movie. But there are some redeemable qualities that I'm really going to have to plumb the depths to really talk about. (Am I a bully? A blogging bully? I hope not. This movie really isn't that bad.) If you set aside that there are really no new plots, especially when it comes to children's films, which I feel are there to simply rake in all of the money (kids movies make bank), we could look at the film as somewhat beautiful. I'm not talking gorgeous like anything by Miyazaki. That's absolutely gorgeous and leans into art. But Abominable aspires to be something greater at moments. I think that writer / director Jill Culton fought with herself over what she was making. There was an active decision to make this set in China. It may have to do with production studios and what DreamWorks wanted to get financially, but Culton kind of embraces the aesthetic of China as a place of duality. Mind you, the entire movie is super pro-China. While the lack of politics in a story is, in of itself, political, Abominable tries to avoid politics and stands from a place of admiration. The cityscapes of China marvel while the countryside has a kind of magic. I will say that, like E.T., the use of magic and wonder make a kids' escape story something somewhat greater. Whenever Everest uses his magic, that's when you pay attention. That's when Culton shows signs of artistry. One of the more gorgeous moments in the story is in the trailer, unfortunately. But I still like the abstract nature of the visual. When solid ground changes properties into something that is fluid and liquid, that's a cool effect. There are other cool effects, but I think that one takes the cake. But as almost an offshoot of that magic, the animated version of China is actually pretty inspirational. I did this presentation about how visual elements diverts attention from character storytelling and focuses it on setting. Notice, the first thing I have to say positive about the movie is the majesty of the setting. Watching the kids, although they are cartoon characters, scaling these gigantic statues, it does look very cool.
I'm not sure what theme takes priority in the movie, though. I tend to lean really hard into Daddy issues. I have so much emotional baggage there that it I kind of can't help but wanting that to be the main issue to be resolved in the film. The movie kind of muddies its message a bit when it comes to the family. From moment one, the film paints Yi as separate from her family because of the death of her father. She wants to travel the world and play the violin like her father did. Having that tangible representation of her dead father was a really smart choice on the part of the film. It's something that reflects Yi's issues through the film. But she shuts out her mother and grandmother (the grandmother, by the bye, is a desperate attempt to add whimsy to the movie, like the grandmother in Moana) and the resolution to be with her family doesn't actually involve the family. One of the major themes is how people tend to segment their lives into family and needs, but the character only misses her family in the most superficial of ways. It is almost an afterthought. Yi doesn't need her family for the entire story. If anything, the movie promotes that family is not as important as we think it is. So when she misses her mother and grandmother, it is more like the way someone misses their parents after being away from camp. But that seems in contrast with the central need of Yi needing her father. There's a disconnect from the idea that the movie wants me to take away from the film and the actual resolution of that idea. Yi misses her father, which causes her to disconnect from her mother and grandmother. She plays his violin to get closer to him and to remember him. She plays his violin, which becomes magical. Her character flaw was never taking her father for granted. She embraced herself in his memory. But the memory of her father was driving a wedge between her living family and her dead family. How is the jump made to have family be important again? The movie stresses the relationship between Everest and his parents, but that too is problematic. The adventure is linear. It is one group moving forward to get Everest back to his parents. But we never see another story of Everest's parents looking for him. Everest's goal is to be reunited with his parents, but that parallel doesn't really stick as much as it should. Yi and Everest have very different relationships. It's a really weird choice.
I feel like I ripped this movie apart. It's fine. The biggest problem is that I never really laughed. As gorgeous as some parts of the movie were, the movie as a whole feels unpolished and kind of rushed. There needed to be more development in the story. Treating kids' movies as simply "kids' movies" is kind of a backwards idea that I thought we were past. I want my cake and eat it too. I think we depend on at least one kids movie being in the theater at any given time. To do that, we have to have movies like Abominable. But there are some elements that could actually expand into something good. Instead, I actually decided to take a ten minute nap sooner than watch a movie to write about it.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.