I was excited when I heard about Missing Link. The studio, Laika Productions, has produced some great films and I especially loved Kubo and the Two Strings. Missing Link is a change for the studio, the story much more upbeat and comedic than their other projects and the voice talent such as Hugh Jackman, Zach Galifianakis, and Zoe Saldana made it sound even more exciting. After watching the film, the animation is absolutely the star of the movie. The voice actors also shine with some funny moments and a strong message about friendship is woven into the story.
“Missing Link” features Hugh Jackman as explorer Lionel Frost who seeks out myths and monsters in an attempt to seek approval from his explorer peers. When he receives a letter about a Sasquatch in the Pacific Northwest, he heads there to seek out the creature and make his name. When he gets there, he doesn’t find a monster as expected. He finds Mr. Link aka Susan (Zach Galifianakis) who sent the letter. Mr. Link seeks Lionel’s aid to find his long-lost cousins, the Yeti, in the famed city of Shangri-la. The pair are accompanied by Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana) who just happens to have the only map to the location. Along the way, the group is hindered by Willard Stenk (Timothy Olyphant) a thug hired by Lionel Frost’s rival, Lord Piggot-Dunceb (Stephen Fry) who wants to get rid of Lionel Frost before he can prove the existence of the Missing Link.
Laika studios have continued their stellar animation, building another film that truly highlights their ability to design detailed worlds and blending stop motion with computer graphics to create a new amalgam of animation. The work they have done on Missing Link has pushed the envelope of what they are capable of, creating over 110 physical sets and used 65 unique locations for the project. The technical aspects are impressive and that shows in every frame of the film.
Some of the aspects of the story are compelling. Missing Link focuses on friendship, finding your place in the world and learning about true friendship. In the film, Lionel Frost is vain and seeks the approval of those who don’t respect him but along the way, he finds something real. The other element that resonated for me was that of Adelina Fortnight’s character. She is forthright, strong, and her part in the story does not end in romance. Instead, she seeks adventure for herself instead of continuing to be part of someone else’s story. I especially think that girls will love that part of the story and enjoy Adeline.
The voice acting is also incredible. Hugh Jackman is delightful as Lionel Frost, sarcastically funny and vulnerable. While we don’t get to see his face, his voice is perfectly matched to the character and he gives us nuances to the character. Zach Galifianakis as Mr. Link uses his voice to highlight the physical comedy of the character. He is restrained as Link, his ability with humor used in an understated way and he manages to keep the character of ‘Susan’ lovable and warm. Zoe Saldana plays Adelina as fiery and wise, her chemistry is apparent with the other actors. Stephen Fry as Lord Piggot-Dunceb is brilliantly arrogant and villainous in a way only he can be. Timothy Olyphant plays Stenk as humorously vile and thuggish. He plays the character, not for villainy but for humor and it works.
However, the story and pacing miss at times. There are times that the story lags or seems flat, not as engaging as it could be. Part of that is the comedy elements. The humor is very verbal in this film. It uses a lot of wordplay and sarcasm, especially with Lionel Frost’s character. A great deal of that humor is going to leave children behind. When the comedy is more physical, then the story moves faster. But it is also because the story is straightforward. The villains aren’t ever really developed. We get enough development of Lionel Frost and Mr. Link. Their interactions make the story engaging and those are the best points in the story. Adeline is incredibly engaging. But even though the pacing could use some work, the basic plot about friendship, about not listening to the opinions of those who don’t respect you, and about becoming the best version of yourself, those will make children like the story.
If you like the other Laika productions, don’t expect a similar story. This is brighter, has a lot of comedy but the animation is the same stellar animation, even more detailed and creative than their other productions. The story has a good message, about friendship and being yourself no matter what. And girls will love that Adelina wants her own adventure and goes after it. Some of the humor is going to go over children’s heads but it will get laughs, adults will appreciate some of that style of humor, and it is worth watching just for the fantastic animation.
Rating: 3.5 missing links out of 5.