‘Abominable’ Follows the Tropes of the Weirdly Thriving Yeti Adventure Mini-Genre

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CREDIT: Universal Studios and Pearl Studio

Starring: Chloe Bennet, Albert Tsai, Tenzing Norgay Trainor, Eddie Izzard, Sarah Paulson, Tsai Chin, Michelle Wong

Director: Jill Culton

Running Time: 97 Minutes

Rating: PG for Danger on Rooftops and Mountains

Release Date: September 27, 2019

Yetis and bigfoots are having quite the cinematic moment. As are lovingly shot, delicious-looking Chinese dumplings. Abominable probably isn’t the pinnacle of either of these trends, but it is a demonstration of their bountiful charms. By this point in the mini-genre, you know the basic plot outline: a giant mythological creature bumps into an intrepid human, who must then protect the hairy fellow from agents of government, science, and/or media, who have their own exploitative agendas in mind. In this case, the harried and ambitious Yi (Chloe Bennett) discovers a goofy yeti making a ruckus on her Shanghai apartment, and then she and her friends Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) and Peng (Albert Tsai) suddenly find themselves on a mission to safely escort the beast, whom they dub “Everest,” to his home on Mount Everest. But really, everyone just wants to get back and chow down on Yi’s grandma’s pork buns, Peng and Everest especially.

Meanwhile, some rich dude (Eddie Izzard) and a zoologist (Sarah Paulson) are on Everest’s tail for less scrupulous reasons. Chances are pretty high that the two of them will either get their comeuppance or see the light or some combination of the two. Hearts are warmed, la la la, credits roll, goofy callback to some joke from earlier before the curtains close. If this formula comforts you, you know who you are. For those craving something at least a little different, we get Everest’s special powers, like teleportation and his ability to summon giant blueberries that splat berry juice all over everyone. It’s good to know that sticky messes still have their place in kids-targeted entertainment.

Abominable is Recommended If You Like: Smallfoot, Missing Link, Bao

Grade: 3 out of 5 Pork Buns

Movie Review: Laika Puts Its Own Lovely Spin on the Bigfoot Myth with ‘Missing Link’

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CREDIT: Laika Studios/Annapurna Pictures

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Zach Galifianakis, Zoe Saldana, Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, Timothy Olyphant, David Walliams, Matt Lucas, Amrita Acharia, Ching Valdez-Aran

Director: Chris Butler

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Rating: PG for Wild West-Style Gunfire and Icy Heights

Release Date: April 12, 2019

The Bigfoot-based Missing Link features enough bullets flying around and enough characters falling to their (presumed) deaths to make me wonder if it is really appropriate for children. Its PG rating is justified in that we do not see the bloodiest ends of these lethal situations, and as a stop-motion animated feature, the whole aesthetic is too charming to ever be gruesome. But I still wonder about how well young kids are equipped to handle such unmistakable peril. Honestly, though, my preference is that we give children some psychological credit and let them be exposed to these frights. So thank you for not holding back, Laika (the production company behind this and other stop-motion flicks like Coraline and Kubo and the Two Strings).

The innovation I love about Missing Link is that its humanoid ape creature is perfectly willing to expose himself to society, or at least to Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman), the bon vivant searching for him. Furthermore, Mr. Link (Zach Galifianakis) speaks perfectly fluent English, which could make the gags based on his inability to grasp sarcasm and metaphor illogical except for the fact that there are plenty of real human people who are similarly not so fast on the uptake themselves in such lingual matters.

Anyway, Mr. Link is tired of living by himself in the Pacific Northwest, and he’s heard that his cousins the Yeti are cool up in the mountains of Asia, so he asks Lionel to lead him there. What follows is a buddy road trip movie in which everyone is gratifyingly on the same side as each other and making a deal that benefits them all fairly. We the audience get to witness some genuine, hopefully lifelong friendships blooming over the course of this high-stakes adventure. If a predictable message of “what you’ve been looking for has been right in front of you all along” pops up by the end, it’s safe to say that Missing Link has earned that indulgence.

Missing Link is Recommended If You Like: Previous Laika features, Kid-friendly Wild West adventures, Smallfoot

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Yeti Elders

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Smallfoot’ is a Bighearted, Non-Abominable Delight

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CREDIT: Warner Bros. Animation

This review was originally publshed on News Cult in September 2018.

Starring: Channing Tatum, James Corden, Zendaya, Common, LeBron James, Gina Rodriguez, Danny DeVito, Yara Shahidi

Director: Karey Kirkpatrick

Running Time: 96 Minutes

Rating: PG for Falling Thousands of Feet with Few Lasting Consequences

Release Date: September 28, 2018

A surefire formula in storytelling is the whole ol’ switcheroo. Taking a timeworn trope and turning its perspective inside out has proven to be valuable on many occasions. Smallfoot runs with that idea, getting a lot of mileage out of reversing its approach to a common myth. It does not just presuppose a world in which Yeti do exist, but one in which there is an entire race of them with their own advanced society. Furthermore, to the Yeti, the existence of humans is the stuff of legends, thus the moniker of the mythical “Smallfoot.” It’s not the most profound premise, but it’s delightful enough to tickle those in the mood for wonder.

It all comes down to, as so many of these animated jaunts do, an interspecies friendship. Migo (Channing Tatum) is a Yeti on the verge of taking on some adult Yeti responsibility when his world rocked by the appearance of a creature with a less-than-gigantic footprint. He proceeds to venture down below the clouds to find the truth behind this encounter, which is when his path crosses with Percy Patterson (James Corden), a nature TV host desperate to restore his popularity. Both man and beast can speak intelligently, but Migo’s words sound like growls to Percy, and Percy’s sound like squeaks to Migo. Yet somehow a connection is forged, and the repartee is quite charming from Tatum and Corden, as well as Zendaya as a fellow Yeti who is especially enthusiastic about the existence of Smallfoots. Providing the ominous (but also unnervingly wise) counterpoint is Common as the Stonekeeper, a Yeti elder who knows the reality of Yeti-human history but propagates an elaborate mythology designed to prevent the truth from being exposed.

As you might guess based on its genre and some of its cast members, Smallfoot is a musical, which I found to be a tad exhausting. To be fair, that is my typical reaction to musicals, what with their inherently overly dramatic manipulation of emotions, and Smallfoot‘s songs do not do much to change my mind. But there is one number rapped by Common that wonderfully reveals the foundation of Yeti society and serves as the crux of the film. The tension driving the best moments of Smallfoot are all about being lost (or not quite lost) in translation. The fear and anticipation mixed up by this inherent confusion leads to a bunch of hijinks and a lot of intrigue and ultimately an attempt at peace and integration that offers hope that this motley world can make it with all of its mixed-up parts working together.

Smallfoot is Recommended If You Like: The search for Bigfoot and the Abominable Snowman, Happy Feet, Storks

Grade: 3 out of 5 Footprints