It’s never too early to introduce your kids to the magic and emotion of the monster movie.
In “Abominable,” writer-director Jill Culton (“Open Season”) serves up an adorable, not at all abominable creature in a gorgeously animated story. It’s set in China, with a window into family life there (the family’s grandmother is called Nai Nai, not grandma) and a dreamy rendering of a cross-country journey, complete with a giant Buddha statue and low treetop-dotted mountain peaks. Like many kids’ movies these days, it also offers a potent message about the importance of kindness to rare wild animals — even mythical ones.
Yi (voiced by Chloe Bennet) is the polar opposite of a cartoon princess — she’s a scrappy teen who secretly works multiple jobs like dog-walking and trash-emptying to make money to fund her travel dreams. When she finds an escaped yeti (Joseph Izzo) on her rooftop, hiding from laboratory goons, she ends up hitting the road earlier than planned. She’s joined by two neighbor siblings, the excitable younger Peng (Albert Tsai) and the preening Jin. The latter is played by Disney Channel’s “Liv and Maddie” star Tenzing Norgay Trainor, who just happens to be the grandson of famed Mount Everest Sherpa Tenzing Norgay — and, given the film’s ultimate mountain destination, is touchingly apt.
You can’t have a monster movie without a villain, and Eddie Izzard makes a fine one in the wealthy and elderly explorer Burnish, whose lab lackey Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulson) promises to recapture their fuzzy escapee with no harm done … probably.
There’s plenty of physical humor here to amuse younger viewers, especially at Jin’s expense (his expensive sneakers come in for plenty of abuse), while Culton’s use of music, the yeti’s expressive face and Yi’s connection to her late father should resonate with older ones.
The puppyish Everest, as they nickname the yeti, turns out to have nature-connected magical abilities that he activates with song — a low rumble that evokes Mongolian throat singers. There is also an amusing clutch of “whooping snakes” who reappear throughout and what I’m pretty sure is the only time anyone’s said “Don’t body-shame my yak!”
Although the movie’s conclusion may be foregone, it’s still enjoyable getting there. “Abominable” is also, Universal notes, the first female-directed animation feature with a female lead. Let’s hope that will be less rare than yeti sightings, in the future.