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Why ‘Abominable’ is a yeti story worth seeing

If you haven’t already seen the surprisingly lackluster “Missing Link”— or even if you have — the good news is that “Abominable” is the superior yeti story.

Peng (Albert Tsai) and Everest in DreamWorks Animation and Pearl Studio’s “Abominable,” written and directed by Jill Culton.
Universal Pictures

“ABOMINABLE” — 3 stars — Voices of Chloe Bennet, Albert Tsai, Michelle Wong, Tenzing Norgay Trainor, Sarah Paulson, Eddie Izzard; PG (some action and mild rude humor); in general release; running time: 97 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — “Abominable” tells the story of a lost yeti trying to return home to the Himalayas. If that plot sounds a little familiar, you aren’t going crazy. Laika’s “Missing Link” brought a similar storyline to theaters earlier this year, albeit with the magic of stop-motion animation.

But if you haven’t already seen the surprisingly lackluster “Missing Link”— or even if you have — the good news is that “Abominable” is the superior experience. Jill Culton’s CGI adventure opens in an unnamed Asian metropolis with an exciting jailbreak, as a towering white yeti escapes from an urban research facility where a company called Burnish Industries has been holding him for study.

Everest in DreamWorks Animation and Pearl Studio’s “Abominable,” written and directed by Jill Culton.
Universal Pictures

The yeti eventually takes refuge on the roof of an apartment building, where he meets a teenage girl named Yi (voiced by Chloe Bennet). Yi is like a lot of teenage girl protagonists in the movies these days: She’s spunky, independent, socially awkward and fraught with angst — in this case, due to her father’s death.

Yi lives in a state of constant tension with her mother (Michelle Wong) and grandmother (Tsai Chin), and neither of them know she’s planning a sightseeing journey across China. It’s a trip she had talked about with her father, and Yi spends all of her spare time doing odd jobs — always for cash — while saving for her departure.

With the arrival of her new friend, though, Yi’s plans get accelerated. Just as she breaks the ice with the yeti — dubbed “Everest” after she learns he’s trying to return home to the Himalayas — the Burnish folks discover them and the chase is on.

Everest and Yi head for mainland China, with her neighbor friends Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) and Peng (Albert Tsai) in tow. Burnish is close behind, led by a scientist named Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulson) and the company’s namesake, a wealthy mountaineer (Eddie Izzard) who wants to use Everest to prove the existence of the Abominable Snowman.

The exciting opening gives “Abominable” some early momentum and mixes in enough character development — even with some supporting characters like Jin — to keep things interesting. But things start getting more predictable when, on the journey across China, Yi and Co. discover that Everest has supernatural powers that allow him to commune with — and manipulate — nature. This development adds a note of wonder to the story, but unfortunately, it also provides an easy bailout for the script that gets abused a bit too often.

Everest, Yi (Chloe Bennet), Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) and Peng (Albert Tsai) in DreamWorks Animation and Pearl Studio’s “Abominable,” written and directed by Jill Culton.
Everest, Yi (Chloe Bennet), Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) and Peng (Albert Tsai) in DreamWorks Animation and Pearl Studio’s “Abominable,” written and directed by Jill Culton.
Universal Pictures

As a DreamWorks production, “Abominable” has a classic visual style, but if there’s an additional element that justifies a look, it’s the way the animation periodically uses light in its compositions. There are moments in “Abominable” that look gorgeous and get beyond the usual bright, multicolored palette that decorates most CGI kid flicks.

Thanks to some winning details like these, there’s enough to elevate “Abominable” over much of the animated family-friendly fare that rolls through the theater schedule — and it’s not a bad option for a time of year that is just starting to build toward the holidays. Overall, the kids should have a good time, even if the film isn’t quite on par with the Pixar heavy hitters.

Rating explained: “Abominable” is rated PG for some frightening moments and vulgar humor.