Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

dir-scr Jill Culton
prd Suzanne Buirgy, Peilin Chou, Dave Polsky
voices Chloe Bennet, Albert Tsai, Tenzing Norgay Trainor, Sarah Paulson, Eddie Izzard, Tsai Chin, Michelle Wong, Joseph Izzo, Rich Dietl, James Hong, Christine Lin, Kym Miller
release US 27.Sep.19,
Chn 28.Sep.19, UK 11.Oct.19
19/China Dreamworks 1h37

paulson izzard
london film fest

peng, everest, yi and jin
The script for this animated adventure is oddly unambitious, recycling themes and action beats to tell a predictable story that contains no real tension. Thankfully it looks terrific, mainly due to spectacular settings that create a travelogue around China. So if the character design and big set-pieces lack imagination, at least there are some nicely engaging situations that keep it lively.
Escaping from a Shanghai lab, a frightened young yeti (Izzo) is discovered by Yi (Bennet), a young woman working several jobs to fund the trip around China she planned to take with her late dad. She lives with her mother and grandmother (Wong and Chin), who are concerned about her feisty independence. And she names the yeti Everest, because he's trying to get home there. With the corporation's scientist Zara (Paulson) and top boss Burnish (Izzard) on her trail, she and Everest escape from the city with neighbour kids Peng and Jin (Trai and Trainor).
Their route takes them through the iconic landscapes Yi has dreamt of visiting, and she uses her father's violin to connect with him through music along the way. This also connects to the magical powers Everest uses to manipulate nature in random ways that help with each close-call escape. There are a few twists and turns along the way, but there's never any question that, for example, the arrogant Jin won't become a good guy. Or that Everest won't make it home.

This lack of suspense leaves everything feeling flat. Characters are likeable, even if they look rather dull, and the voice work is never starry (Izzard was clearly reigned in). Much of the animation effort seems to have gone into the yeti's fur, which is seriously cuddly, and also the depictions of a variety of settings from jungles to mountains to rivers to deserts. There's even a sequence set at the giant Leshan Buddha, oddly to the strains of Coldplay's Fix You.

Themes are all over the place, dropped here and there like tiny lessons. The strongest thrust is about not giving up, like the river koi swimming upstream, a symbol of perseverance. But this seems obvious even without the recurring imagery, and the screenplay never bothers to explore the idea within the personalities of its characters. Still, there are several strong ideas (about grief, family connections, using talents, and so on) that peppered here and there. And the film will leave most kids wanting a snuggly yeti of their own.

cert u themes, violence 6.Oct.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall