The new Dreamworks animated feature that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival has nothing abominable about it. It is so pleasantly nice that that the film title should be re-named “Pleasant” or perhaps “Happiness” since the setting is Shanghai, China.
In the current times of ‘more women in movies’, it is not surprising that the main protagonist is a female.. She is Yi (Chloe Bennet), a resourceful girl in a totally female family consisting of mother and granny, ‘nai nai’ right after the loss of her father. Being Chinese, she knows how to play the violin (a little stereotyping here),the instrument worth to her more than anything else in the world. What is puzzling in one scene is when asked to play for the family after dinner, she says she sold the violin. The reason is never clear and left for the audience to decide the reason for her decision to say that. The gender of the yeti that she saves is brought into question in one scene, as likely to the filmmakers whether to make the yeti male or female. It would be a little much to make it also a female, so ‘male’ looked after by a female would be the expected option.
Having fled the secret laboratory where he’s been detained, a young Yeti, that is named Everest (non-speaking, just making abominable snowman sounds) frantically scurries through the streets of Shanghai before hiding on an apartment rooftop, where he takes solace in a billboard advertisement for travel to Everest. It’s also where he meets Yi. Yi and the Yeti discover a shared fondness for Yi’s grandma’s dumplings — which the Yeti consumes in crazy quantities — and a love of music. An outspoken advocate for Asian actors and film roles in Hollywood, Bennet voices Yi with an impressive mix of American confidence and Chinese family values.
Yi quickly surmises and turns correct that her new companion is being hunted by a squad of ruthless militiamen, led by wealthy collector Burnish (Eddie Izzard) and the zoologist Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulson). with red hair looking like an animated Tilda Swinton who usually has roles of this nature in films. Recruiting two cousins as accomplices (Chinese have large families – stereotyping?), Yi determines to help the Yeti get away. With their pursuers hot on their tails, the quartet hop on a barge bound fo
The setting in China instead of the U.S, makes total sense. The Himalayas where Yi takes Everest is close to the Himalayas compared to the U.S. Also, a film set in China will do better at the box-office globally as Chinese the second largest market in the world. (Will this film be subject to tariffs on the Chine-American trade war?)
The film draws from other films like E.T. (also from Dreamworks). Yi is aiding Everest finding home and reuniting with his parents. The bonding between master and teen is reminiscent of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON.
The animation from Dreamworks is great as expected though there is not much excitement in anything in terms of insight or innovation. Recommended for little kids!