New animated movie Missing Link is about the search for the legendary Bigfoot. But it doesn't take much searching to uncover an irresistibly charming tale of friendship and adventure told through endlessly stunning animation.
Breezy, funny and lavish, Missing Link, in theaters now, is the Kubo and the Two Strings, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls. Like those films, it's an original story in a world crowded with sequels and reboots. And like those other stop-motion animated masterpieces, it's an absolute delight., the company behind
Breezing across the globe like Around the World in Eighty Days crossed with , this old-fashioned romp isn't as emotional or impactful as . But it makes for a lighthearted palate cleanser after Kubo's frequently devastating emotional roller coaster. And even though it's about mythical creatures, Missing Link is far less creepy than previous Laika outings, taking a friendly group of cheerful oddballs on a family-friendly trip through a colorful and sumptuous world.
Hugh Jackman is infectiously appealing as Victorian adventurer Sir Lionel Frost, a winning combination of Sherlock Holmes-style indefatigability and childlike passion for mythical creatures. We meet him and his spearlike chin on the hunt for proof of the Loch Ness Monster, which leads into a stunning underwater chase that audaciously demonstrates just how dynamic stop-motion animation can be.
Returning to London's stuffy gentleman's clubs, the debonair Sir Lionel stakes his reputation on a search for a mysterious hairy beast. No, not-- the elusive Bigfoot. Venturing into the backwoods, Sir Lionel encounters a gentle giant he names Mr. Link. Adorably nervous but endearingly friendly, the only thing bigger than this Bigfoot's feet is his heart.
Zach Galifianakis gives Mr. Link a mild personality, although his voice acting is possibly too low-key. Zoe Saldana is a bit more lively as the straight-talking Adelina, who joins the odd couple on their international adventures.
The bad guys are, of course, hot on their tail. Stephen Fry hams it up mightily as the aristocratic jerk opposing Sir Lionel's adventure, although Timothy Olyphant is a little bland as his weaselly henchman. Game of Thrones star Amrita Acharia also lends her voice, as well as David Walliams, Matt Lucas and an imperious Emma Thompson.
Like all Laika films, Missing Link looks absolutely beautiful. From fog-bound loch to sun-dappled forest to towering mountain ranges, each scene washes over you with gorgeousness. There's a thousand shades of color in every wonderfully realised green field or russet desert. And of course the stop-motion puppets are full of the vitality of real physical objects, from their sprightly posing to their expressive 3D-printed faces to the fabric of their real costumes.
The puppets come to life in a string of comic set pieces, bursting with some of the most dynamic action you'll ever see in a stop-motion film. One highlight is an Inception-style chase through the revolving corridors of a seesawing cargo ship in the jaws of a savage storm.
Stick around for the end credits for a glimpse behind the scenes. This all-too-brief peek behind the curtain brings home the epic scale of these films and the artistry that goes into creating them -- and could be as inspiring for young minds as the action that went before. If your kids enjoy the film, be sure to seek out.
Missing Link's Victorian setting gives the action an air of old-fashioned adventure. There's a very, very gentle critique of western colonialism and exceptionalism bubbling underneath, but the focus is very much on the friendship between our oddball adventurers.
The middle of the film sees our heroes travel across the world in a globetrotting montage, and I've got to admit I wanted to see more of this. Instead of Phileas Fogg-style international high jinks, we skip from protracted setup to protracted ending without much in between.
This skipped-over middle makes the film feel a bit insubstantial. More importantly, because we don't see the challenges to Mr. Link of being in the human world, we don't get as much emotional impact from his quest for a place he feels at home.
You could say, in fact, that in the middle of the film there's a missing link.
But that's a minor quibble. If nothing else, the wispiness of the story makes a nice change from whizbang kids movies. It's not as scary as Kubo, as deafening as superhero movies or as bewilderingly complex asand .
Originally published April 2.