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Missing Link is the latest film from the acclaimed and beloved animation studio Laika, known for films such as Coraline and Kubo and the Two Strings. Anticipation was high for this movie in many circles despite the strange lack of marketing it received, and thankfully it maintains the studio’s strong track record. While far from perfect, Missing Link is something of a throwback to simpler times, when adventure movies were… well, adventurous.
I’ll say this up front: Missing Link is a gorgeous movie, and director Chris Butler makes sure to remind you of that at every opportunity he gets. This movie is full of sweeping landscape shots, bright colors, and lively environments. The film starts with a funny and exciting sequence involving a certain infamous sea monster, and from there on it moves briskly from plot point to plot point, keeping your attention the entirety of its 95 minute runtime. Action sequences are handled with ease and full of spectacle, with a lot of the framing reminding me of a Wes Anderson movie. It’s incredibly well put-together.
Missing Link’s story is really nothing new or something we haven’t seen before. The film is about an explorer, Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman), who hunts mythical beasts to prove himself as a great explorer. A chance encounter leads him to a sasquatch, the titular Link (Zach Galifianakis), who lives deep in the woods of Washington state, alone and in search of more of his kind. It’s a typical story of greed and self-discovery, hitting plenty of familiar beats along the way. Despite all that, though, I found it to be extremely enjoyable, with plenty of the film’s comedy being clever enough and emotional beats landing hard enough to sell it. If you’re expecting something singular and original, you’ll be disappointed. But if you’re looking for a familiar story told with lots of humor, heart, and finesse, you’ll find it.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The characters here are similar to the plot in that they’re fairly conventional, but elevated by some excellent voice work. Jackman is very game as Sir Lionel Frost, the conceited but well-meaning adventurer, while Galifianakis sheds the smarmy persona he falls into too frequently for an innocent and joyful performance as Mr. Link, easily the beating heart of the film. Elsewhere, there is an almost unrecognizable Zoe Saldana as the widow of one of Frost’s colleagues, who brings a Latin accent and plenty of fire to her character. Lastly, there’s Timothy Olyphant as Willard Stenk, who is clearly having a lot of fun with his scenery-chewing drawl. The voice cast is excellent, and it really helps sell this familiar story.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
I found the sound design in Missing Link to be good, with the noises of nature really standing out. The crunching of snow underfoot and the crack of thunder are all here and appropriately impactful. I found the score to be pretty forgettable though, and in a few scenes found its presence a little distracting. It’s by no means a bad score, but sometimes it failed to match the tone of the scene and pulled me out a little bit, which was disappointing.
Here is where the film really shines. To the surprise of nobody, this film is beautifully animated. Laika’s style remains unique among the growing field of animation styles, and it really captures the audience with its sense of style. Likewise, the many environments of this film are beautifully created and distinct, all bursting with color and character of their own. From the woods of Washington to the deserts of California and the snowy peaks of the Himalayas, this film is a true globe-trotter, and the world design more than rises to the challenge.
Overall, this is easily another win for Laika, and a very fun adventure movie in its own right. Missing Link is full of color, joy, and an undeniably adventurous spirit that I found infectious. It’s certainly not the most original or groundbreaking film I’ve ever seen, but it tells its familiar story with enough fun twists and comedic moments that I was smiling from start to finish. If you like colorful characters and breathtaking animation, this is a journey well-worth taking