There is no other animation studio quite like Laika.
As the mastermind behind films such as “Coraline,” “Corpse Bride” and “Kubo and the Two Strings,” Laika simultaneously brings a charming wittiness and an uncommon, darker edge to its films. The mixture of these two tones creates an addicting atmosphere in all of its projects.
The latest film to come from Laika, “Missing Link,” certainly leans more into the charming side of its tone. The story follows an explorer named Sir Lionel Frost, voiced by Hugh Jackman, as he escapades around the globe alongside a Sasquatch he meets in North America named Mr. Link.
Mr. Link isn't what you would imagine when thinking of Bigfoot. Voiced by Zach Galifianakis, Mr. Link is extremely polite, timid and curious about the world. He teaches himself how to read and write almost perfect English, which leads him to meet Frost after writing a letter inviting Frost to his home.
Mr. Link seeks out Frost’s help because he believes he’s the last Sasquatch in America and wants Frost to help him find his way to the Himalayas to be united with a rumored population of yetis that live there.
While “Missing Link” might not be Laika's best work, it still proves to be an endlessly charming and beautifully animated film that’s hard to imagine anyone disliking.
Before jumping into what works and doesn't work about the story, let's take a second and address the magnificent work Laika did with this film's animation.
Like all of Laika's movies, “Missing Link” makes use of stop-motion animation, meaning it used clay models and sets to make this film, not digital animation. By using this strategy, Laika has produced some of the most beautifully animated films in history, and “Missing Link” is no exception.
While watching the film, it's clear how much hard work went into crafting its visual style. The design of the film's characters and sets are incredibly intricate –– even the smallest details, such as characters changing complexions in differing climates and temperatures. “Missing Link” is just another example of how Laika is the best in the business when it comes to style and animation.
Beyond the look of the film, “Missing Link” offers a moviegoing experience that, while not too different from other kid-friendly adventures, is sweet, simple and sure to put a smile on the viewer’s face.
The film's cast, consisting of Jackman, Galifianakis, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Fry and Emma Thompson, gives wonderful performances voicing the film's characters. Jackman and Galifianakis, in particular, work wonders as the film's central duo. Jackman is smug and charismatic in the role of Frost, making the character feel like a mix of Indiana Jones and Jackman's interpretation of P.T. Barnum in “The Greatest Showman.”
Galifianakis is hilarious as the voice of Mr. Link, and he delivers all of his lines as if he just walked in off the street and had little idea of what was happening, but it works because that's what the character often calls for. Galifianakis takes that and runs with it, making clever jokes and gags out of simple play-on words.
Though the characters and humor in the film are excellent, it doesn't quite have as much emotional resonance as I would've liked it to.
The film is pretty short, clocking in at only 95 minutes. Most of that time is spent making jokes and providing exposition for the audience, but there isn't much spent on character development. The audience is never really given a chance to find out who these characters are. They are just rushed through the plot until the film comes to a close.
Save for maybe one moment, “Missing Link” never takes the time to stop, let the audience breathe and let the characters’ personalities and motivations shine through. Audience members are told why the characters are doing what they're doing but never why they should care.
If the movie had been 10 or 15 minutes longer, then it would've had the time to do that. Instead, it feels like a missed opportunity.
“Missing Link” is quite enjoyable, but it is missing an emotional link of its own, which keeps it from being amazing.
Visually, the film is beautiful. The cast gives excellent performances across the board, and there are several moments that make viewers audibly laugh. If the characters had been developed a little bit more, this movie could've really been something special.
It could've easily garnered the same kind of love that films like “Coraline” and “Kubo and the Two Strings” have. But instead, it will unfortunately most likely end up being left in the dust by Laika's other work.