Movie review: ‘Missing Link’ takes a step backward

Laika is an American company which, since 2005, was slowly but steadily building its name in the field of stop-motion animation. 

So far, all four of its feature films — “Coraline” (2008), “ParaNorman” (2012), “The Boxtrolls” (2014), and “Kubo and the Two Strings” (2016) — have all been nominated for the Oscars for Animated Features. Coming off from the positive glory that was “Kubo,” this next Laika feature is under a lot of pressure to match or surpass that last one. 

However, the word of mouth seems to be weak this time.

Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) desperately wanted to join a prestigious society of great explorers. But the leader of that society, Lord Piggot-Dunceby (Stephen Fry), would not accept him, believing that Frost did not have what it took to be a member. 

One day, Frost claimed he can prove that a Sasquatch existed. Piggot-Dunceby agreed to accept Frost into his group if he could prove the reality of this claim. However, Piggot-Dunceby was going to make sure Frost failed in his mission, by fair means or foul. 

Actually, Frost only needed about ten minutes of screen time to find the Sasquatch. Then, to make it very much easier for them to communicate with each other, this giant furry hominid just happened to be delightful and friendly. 

Very conveniently, Mr. Link, as Frost called him, can read, write, and speak English fluently (with the voice of Zach Galifianakis). He was also able to ride ships and elephants. With scenes like these, I lowered my lofty expectations down and regarded this film as mere kiddie fare.

The story, though, did not stop there when he found Mr. Link. The rest of the hour of running time left was spent following the adventures of Frost and Link in search for legendary Shangri-La, the home of the Yeti, whom the orphaned Link thought would accept him as a long lost cousin. 

For providing the map to the Yeti, Frost’s spirited ex-lover Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana) went along for the trip halfway around the world. I did not like the artwork for Adelina, with her arched eyebrows making her look angry all the time even if she was not.

For a film seemingly targeted at young kids, “Missing Link” had a lot of dark humor and cartoony violence in it. From the very start, a grown man was already eaten up by a sea monster. Then, there was an assassin named Willard Stenk (Timothy Olyphant) sent to follow Frost on his trips in order to murder him, so there were repeated scenes of gunfire. 

Scenes of a chase set on a ship on rough seas and scenes of people hanging on to dear life from an icy cliff may be exciting for adults, but these could scary for young kids. 

“Missing Link” may have been another feat of stop-motion animation for Laika. However, in all aspects (from story to screenplay to artwork), I felt it was a step or two backward from the near-perfection of “Kubo and the Two Strings” which, as of now, still safely remain to be the peak of Laika’s filmography to date. 

This review was originally published in the author’s blog, “Fred Said.” 

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