Some mythical creatures have better agents than others. The bunyip, the Australian legend said to resemble a cross between a bear and a duck, has yet to inspire a single movie. The Yeti, on the other hand, has managed to bag three animated features in the space of a year. Following Smallfoot and Missing Link, this less starrily voice-casted endeavour sees one of the big furry guys on a trek to get home to the Himalayas, aided by three kids: violin-playing outsider Yi (Bennet), cool kid Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) and scruffy doofus Peng (Albert Tsai). A collaboration between DreamWorks and the China-based Pearl Studio, it’s a refreshingly Asia-focused tale (though it does feature the voices of Eddie Izzard and Sarah Paulson in minor roles), and a brisk romp which hurtles from the neon skyscrapers of Shanghai to the snowy slopes of Everest.
In some ways it’s a history-making movie. The writer-director, Jill Culton, is the first-ever woman to direct an animated film with a female lead. And it embraces its Chinese milieu, including Yi’s delightfully bulbous “nai-nai” (grandma). Shame, then, that the storytelling plays it so safe. There’s nothing particularly new on offer here: it’s standard stronger-together, be-kind-to-nature stuff, with Coldplay tunes kicking in at heart-warming moments and mischievous animal sidekicks (a bunch of whooping snakes more-or-less steal the show). Still, the big, blobby, fluffy monster at the movie’s core is undeniably adorable, with the torso of a wampa, the roar of Chewbacca and the disposition of BB-8, plus magical powers (he can grow blueberries by humming — can a bunyip do that?) which keep the action sequences inventive and unpredictable.
It’s breezy and colourful enough to entertain throughout, with a splendid silly streak — and it scores bonus points for recreating a shot from Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade