Reviewed by: Ruth Eshuis
Kindly helping others
The importance of family
Environmental protection / Ecology
What is man’s responsibility to the environment? Answer
China—a nation known for strong oppression of Christians on the sole basis of their faith in Jesus Christ
Chloe Bennet … Yi (voice)
Albert Tsai … Peng (voice)
Tenzing Norgay Trainor … Jin (voice)
Joseph Izzo … Everest (voice)
Eddie Izzard … Burnish (voice)
Sarah Paulson … Dr. Zara (voice)
Tsai Chin … Nai Nai (voice)
Michelle Wong … Yi's Mom (voice)
Rich Dietl (Rich B. Dietl) … Goon Leader (voice)
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Pearl Studio [China], owned by China Media Capital
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“I was lost but you found me
Hiding in the shadows
From my destiny.”
What would you do if you found a huge adorable yeti hiding at your home, longing to return to his beloved Himalayan mountains, including the tallest mountain in the world? This fun idea is a good start for a family movie, and I’m sure it will do well at the box office. Nevertheless, this likable film wanders aimlessly, lost far from Christianity.
In a suburb of Shanghai, China, restless teen Yi is mourning her father by ‘keeping busy’ with multiple cash-in-hand jobs, avoiding her other family members and …well, everyone, really. Her only pleasure is escaping each evening to her rooftop shack where she can play her violin and dream of following in her beloved dad’s footsteps with a tour of China’s great sites, such as the Leshan Buddha. But as soon as she stumbles across a hurting yeti and reaches out in compassion for the sweet, injured monster, all this is threatened. Thankfully her neighbors, a cheery tween named Peng and his vain older cousin Jin, commit to help with the homeward mission.
The journey has huge risks and a team of ruthless crooks in pursuit, so it seems like a deadly expedition. Can Yi, Peng and Jin learn to let go of hindrances, find inner peace, use their gifts rightly and persevere to the end? Will the mystical creature and his powers ENLIGHTEN her view of herself and family?
In terms of movie-making, “Abominable” does alright, especially as it’s made for both Mandarin and English-speaking audiences, which must have been a complex task. As such it relies heavily on visual communication, not just dialog, which has the advantage of also making it an apt show for some people with disabilities. Creatures and characters are delightful to the eye. Music is tasteful and not overdone. Family scenes are relatable. Reminiscent of “How to Train Your Dragon,” the CGI scenery and artistry are also truly beautiful, and audiences may gasp with pleasure at makers’ imagination and skillful finishing.
An interesting plotline keeps viewers thinking and guessing all the way, while also allowing light and shade moments for meditation on the story’s lessons. Fun surprise elements appear, such as a transforming vehicle. There’s also a great balance of harmless humor, animal-like play and easily understood conversation.
Before we reach the great peaks, you should be fully informed of the climb, valleys, frights and dangers along the way. There is a lot of unexplained ‘magic’, money-hungry brutality to man and nature alike, and general scariness throughout. Mild rude humor occurs as it does in most western movies. And theater-goers will encounter significant amounts of Chinese tourism prompts and product placement with McDonald’s billboards and lengthy scenes of characters drinking from a mountain of red cola cans. Later, Coldplay’s hauntingly sweet tune “Fix You” not only accompanies but also seems to provide the script for a whole section of the story. The use of pipe organ and violins add solemnity and a religious tone. In that same part, we see Yi stare in awe at a giant Buddha for a long time, then it appears to shed a tear as she uses her gifts to bless the world.
I had to look it up afterward but found that the film’s worldview consistently fits the label of humanist Buddhism. Most of the main principles are here, such as life’s suffering, perseverance (right effort), right thinking and meditation. The strong underlying promotion of Buddhism seems subtle to those who aren’t familiar with it, but I expect it may be powerfully attractive to some children and teens—it looks happy, peaceful, and healing.
It’s also important to note that children who view this film will see unhealthy examples of how to deal with relationship problems and worries. The rhetoric assumes that we can solve it all ourselves with no need for a God, and that sin can be easily shrugged off. There are also some cultural values that may land harshly upon western ears, such as when Yi’s loving grandmother bluntly tells her, “No one likes a lazy granddaughter.” And just like in the recently remade “The Lion King,” characters speak of the stars in the night sky as ‘ancestors.’ Messages will be discussed more below, with spiritual issues, and please also see the Concerning content summary at the bottom of this review, for details.
If you’re still journeying with me, and prepared to take up the challenge, here’s what you can look forward to. Amazingly, I found only minor aspects of nudity, romance, cursing (one ‘oh my gosh’) and no alcohol—unless you count the Chinese name Jin which to us sounds like gin. With such a clean slate in these areas, a family could watch it together as an opportunity to openly discuss and analyse the film’s ideas and differences between Yi’s culture and ours. The links to Buddhism as an alternate worldview to Christianity could be explained (NOTE: Topics on the side of this page could be helpful to parents and mature teens). And even children can spot some of the wrong behaviors and attitudes shown by the heroes of “Abominable,” such as lying, stealing and killing without concern.
The film also has a very positive view of family and the importance of appreciating who you have. Other positives include encouragement for hard work and perseverance. And despite expectations that this could be another ‘girl power’ driven film, because of one line that is included in the trailers, overall, I feel that it is not focused on that idea.
Apart from the obvious Buddha, no religious imagery is seen. Spiritually, “Abominable” solely favors Buddhism which involves trying to ENLIGHTEN oneself. In Yi’s case, this initially involves withdrawal, escape and letting go, while it means other things to her companions. While as Christians we know that many religions have a few aspects in common with Christianity, they each lack some core aspects and thus miss out on Jesus who is Himself the answer to our greatest needs and longings. He would give a greater answer to Yi’s grief and lostness. But instead the travelers go to see a giant Buddha idol which has been special to Yi’s father. They each get in touch with their restful, ‘at peace’ self. Also, note that when Everest uses his ‘magic powers’, he sits in a cross-legged pose, hums deeply and glows, after which he has powers of creation, healing, flight and even controlling weather. Yi describes this as: “Everest talks to nature. That’s his gift.”
Several other issues and themes are addressed. Perhaps the largest is family, but I can’t say any more lest I give the ending away. Another issue is identity, especially when we’ve been shaken by a big loss. It can be extremely hard to recover from that. We need our Creator God’s help: it’s not enough to just know ourselves well.
Unhealthy attachments are confronted. One person is obsessed with his image, his phone, his cool new sports shoes nicknamed ‘my babies,’ and his social media ‘likes.’ Getting out in the elements, however, forces a change. Yi and Jin argue about their differences and preferences for a busy or quiet social life. They debate views of the environment. It is good to see each of 3 main characters admit their errors and move ahead.
With all these ups and downs, let it be left to each family to decide about Abominable’s appropriateness for kids.
Generally, I do not recommend this film for children, due to its frequent scariness, and topics suiting older audiences. Perhaps it could work for teens and families with a well-developed understanding of Christianity and why other religions cannot fit hand in hand with God’s word. Adults, likewise, may appreciate many aspects of “Abominable” despite its inconsistency with the truths of the Bible, though unfortunately it won’t offer any deep gems of truth.
Why and how should we pray for suffering Christians? Answer
But if the film’s depiction of the beauties of China causes a desire to visit there, perhaps think again, because it is a country known for oppression of Christians on the sole basis of their faith in Jesus Christ. So while all may look sweet and pretty from our movie theater seats, let’s remember the realities and approach each entertainment option with eyes and mind switched on, not emptied.
As you read this and perhaps our articles on Buddhism, and perhaps watch the film, I pray God’s true enlightenment for you, through the Lord Jesus Christ who comes looking for us in the shadows, saves us and teaches us our destiny—in Him.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.