Four excellent feature films in and with staggering levels of evolution in their mastery of the stop-motion animation technique, it is safe to say that Laika have proved themselves to be one of the most exciting film companies around. Their last film, the masterpiece Kubo and the Two Strings, was arguably their deepest and most ambitious project to date and while Missing Link doesn’t resonate to that same degree (but honestly what does?), it continues Laika’s red hot streak to 5-0, in the most ridiculously enjoyable way possible.
After dark alternate families, zombies, box-dwelling monsters and tales of legend Laika’s latest follows the adventures of cryptozoologist-cum-monster investigator/explorer, Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman), as he sets off on a high stakes expedition to find the elusive Sasquatch. Only he soon discovers that there might just be more to this wild creature than big feet and fur in this gleeful animated romp that is like Around the World in 80 Days meets Pirates! In An Adventure with Scientists and Indiana Jones.
Laika continue to innovate, evolve and captivate, as they this time opt to expand some of their other filmmaking senses and it makes for perhaps their most accessible film to date but not at the expense of their enchanting imagination, characters and acuity. The plot may have some predictable beats but Chris Butler’s great script will be too busy making audiences young and old giggle for it to be a major issue. Without doubt Missing Link is Laika’s funniest film yet(i)! Superbly witty and written gags, endlessly endearing, rewatchable as heck and with a great big heart beneath its Vernian narrative, this movie is an absolute hoot.
Tipping its hat to classic globetrotting adventure stories, Missing Link fills its journey with absolutely splendid characters and first-rate voice work. Jackman leads with gusto as the sophisticated Frost, who soon realises the respect of his peers may not be all it is cracked up to be. Zach Galifianakis as the literal-minded bigfoot ‘Mister Link’ is hilarious and warm, while Zoe Saldana as Frost’s old “acquaintance” (the terrifically named) Adelina Fortnight is resilient and action-ready, much like Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides’ Angelica or Marion Ravenwood from Raiders of the Lost Ark and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. There is also a great OTT villain in Stephen Fry as the morally odorous explorer Lord Piggot-Dunceb and Timothy Olyphant as his gun-toting henchman Stenk, as the film pokes fun at British colonialism joyously.
From faultlessly assembled set pieces (including an Inception-esque hallway sequence) to visually breathtaking and painstakingly realised detail (see a mid-credits behind the scenes insight), Missing Link looks as fabulous as it sounds, thanks to Carter Burwell’s perfectly toned score. The story even makes room for some timely themes about man’s endangering and annihilation of all it discovers, and assess the true nature of perceived “civilised society”, while a welcome final detour from convention between the lead characters also adds a free-spirited edge.
Sometimes the most important adventure one can take, is finding someone to join you on your future ones and this funny, frolicking, crusade from Laika is a trip worth taking for all ages.
MISSING LINK / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: CHRIS BUTLER / SCREENPLAY: CHRIS BUTLER / STARRING: HUGH JACKMAN, ZOE SALDANA, ZACH GALIFIANAKIS, STEPHEN FRY, TIMOTHY OLYPHANT, EMMA THOMPSON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected Rating: 8 out of 10