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Missing Link – Movie Review

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Missing Link – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Elevation Pictures

With their first four stop-motion animated features, Laika told stories of children coping with a dark world. With Missing Link, the Oregon-based studio has gone in a different direction, with a focus on adventuring and a lighter comedic touch. However, the result still features plenty of the artistry viewers have come to expect from them. Director/writer Chris Butler takes more than a few cues from Jules Verne in telling this story of a Bigfoot heading out into the world. The comic tone is appropriately zippy as they hop from location to location and thus, Missing Link makes for a winning tale.

Watching the journey unfold in Missing Link, it’s difficult not to think of Around the World in Eighty Days, with explorer Sir Lionel Frost serving as this film’s version of Phileas Fogg and right down to a bet involving going across the Earth. That’s hardly a detriment, though, and actually adds to the overall appeal of the picture. The friendship between Frost and his large footed friend Mr. Link paves the way for multiple humourous interactions. A running joke where Mr. Link takes everything literally somehow avoids getting old and Hugh Jackman and Zach Galifanakis play off each other really well. Butler comes up with a fair amount of imaginative set-pieces that also use the Sasquatch’s size to great effect.

There is an old-fashioned appearance to Missing Link that is appreciative. The movie is very much a period piece and for the most part, Butler avoids including anachronistic jokes and modern references. This is very much a celebration of ingenuity, much in the same way Verne’s novels were. While it would have been tempting, Butler also resists the urge to give Frost and his tag-along explorer Adelina an unnecessary romance. The villains are a bit more on the simplistic side and while there are occasional funny lines from them, they could have been cut out and not affected the conflict and stakes too much. The most entertaining part of this journey is seeing Frost, Adelina and Mr. Link go through it together and the trust that forms between them.

Each Laika production has been a wonder on a visual level and Missing Link continues that high mark of quality on the animation front. There are a few quickly moving action scenes with the animators more than keeping pace. The production design by Lou Romano does a splendid job of crafting the various places visited by the leads from the woodland forests of late 19th century America to an impressive ice palace. Laika is also known for their unique character designs that aren’t afraid of breaking from the norm and that continues here with many an original nose and strange body proportion. The beauty of animation is its ability to create people and things that would never exist in real life and Chris Butler understands that with his designs. As Laika has done with their past few films, they’ve also included a neat behind-the-scenes clip of the complicated stop-motion animation process during the end credits and it’s always amazing to see.

Missing Link can definitely be mentioned as another strong outing from the filmmakers and animators at Laika. It’s a bit of a departure for them, but it’s always good when animation studios step outside of their usual story templates. Chris Butler has crafted a funny travelogue with an enjoyable set of characters and impressively put together set-pieces. The whole production has an inviting and appealing appearance to go alongside its well done story. Laika has its own sensibilities that define them as a studio and it’s good to see the place continues to trek on and prove the might of stop-motion.

Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison