Missing Link | Chris Butler | April 12th, 2019
Stop-motion animation studio Laika has been a reliable source of quality of the past few years, bringing us memorable gems such as Kubo and the Two Strings and Coraline. With their latest stop-motion adventure Missing Link, the studio has brought back ParaNorman director Chris Butler who gives us another visually stunning and highly amusing film that should be entertaining fun for viewers of all ages.
Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) is a 19th century adventurer who considers himself to be the world’s foremost investigator of “myths and monsters”. In a highly amusing opening sequence, we see him engage with the always elusive Loch Ness monster, but he is unable to bring home the proof that he desires in order to impress Lord Piggot-Dunceby (Stephen Fry) and the rest of the elitist Optimates Club that denies him entry because they look down upon his work, finding the idea of such mystical beasts to be delusions that are utterly beneath them.
Frost is determined to secure his place in the club and makes a deal with the Lord that if he brings back proof that such a creature exists, that he will be allowed to finally join the club once and for all. The Lord reluctantly accepts, not looking to seem afraid of a good wager in front of his colleagues, but even as skeptical as he is, he hires a henchman named Willard Stenk (Timothy Olyphant) to keep track of Frost and “take him out” if he does somehow find anything that would make Piggot-Dunceby look foolish.
It just so happens that someone has just reached out to Frost proclaiming to have found evidence of Sasquatch in the Pacific Northwest. Not too long after arriving, Frost discovers the giant creature, who he soon dubs Mr. Link (Zach Galifianakis). Not only does he speak English as well as humans can, but he was the one who sent the letter. As a part of an endangered species, Mr. Link lives a lonely life and knows all about Frost’s travels and hopes that he can help him find distant relatives in the valley of Shangri-La. So they too form a deal, with Frost hoping to bring back the proof he needs to finally be taken seriously and Mr. Link to find the family that he has been so desperately looking for.
Butler, directing his own screenplay, laces the film with the sort of humor that is impossible to shake. It’s constantly hilarious in ways both big and small, with some gags more obvious than others. The story has some good messages about self-discovery and realizing what it means to really be family and being true to oneself. At times, the story doesn’t dig deep past these points or have the deep pulling emotional currents of some of the strongest Laika work, such as the recent Kubo.
While it may drag here and there in the middle, Missing Link is a highly likable film that will be equally engaging for parents as it is for young viewers. The stop-motion animation completely lives up to the high standard that you expect from Laika. Little details or subtle movements here and there will take you momentarily out of the film, if only to try and fathom how they pulled it off and made it so photo-realistic in the stop-motion medium. That, along with the engaging voice cast of Jackman, Galifianakis, and Zoe Saldana as Frost’s old flame Adelina Fortnight, adds layers of depth and dimension to their respective roles and bring the characters to life.
While it doesn’t jump out as an essential film from Laika’s growing features catalog, there is plenty of reliable elements in Missing Link, along with the smart humor and well-intentioned messages that it brings along. It is yet another win for the studio that has quietly developed its consistent quality – not only in the world of animation but in all of Hollywood.