Missing Link

Review by Adam Woodward @AWLies

Directed by

Chris Butler

Starring

Hugh Jackman Zach Galifianakis Zoe Saldana

Anticipation.

Laika animations are always a treat.

Enjoyment.

And this one is no different.

In Retrospect.

Breathtaking visuals, slightly disappointing characters.

Hugh Jackman’s intrepid explorer makes a startling discovery in Laika’s latest stop-motion treasure.

The past decade has seen a steady rise in sophisticated, adult-skewed stop-motion filmmaking, from Adam Elliot’s Mary & Max to Claude Barras’ My Life as a Courgette to Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa to Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs. Not that younger viewers have been missing out: Aardman Animations continues to plug away with its homespun brand of eccentrically British claymation, while across the pond a relative upstart has taken the artform to dazzling new heights.

We are in a golden age of stop-motion animation and, since the release of Coraline in 2009, Laika has been at the cutting edge of the industry, putting out on average one new feature every few years to widespread critical acclaim. The studio keeps upping its technical game, too, with ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls and Kubo and the Two Strings having successively utilised advances in 3D printing and CG software to produce ever more naturalistic facial animation. So how does Missing Link measure up?

This fish-out-of-water story begins with a monster in a lake. Charismatic, egocentric adventurer Sir Lionel Frost (voiced by Hugh Jackman) and his long-suffering assistant, Mr Lint (David Walliams), are on the hunt for a mythical beast in the Scottish Highlands. Initially it seems like a wild goose chase, until a prehistoric giant emerges from the murky depths, towering over the pair’s dinky wooden row boat.

Following a brief altercation, Frost captures irrefutable proof of the famously camera-shy Loch Ness Monster, only to see it destroy his photographic equipment. Thanks for nothing, Nessie. Failure, it transpires, is a recurring theme for Frost. Upon returning to London empty-handed he is ridiculed by the members of an elitist explorers club he desperately wishes to join. The truth is he doesn’t really fit in, but he is nonetheless determined to make his name and win the respect of his peers. So Frost decides to go west.

Not long after arriving in the Pacific Northwest (Laika is based in Oregon) our seasoned “myths and monsters investigator” makes a discovery so strange, so utterly confounding, even he is at a loss to explain it. Eight feet tall, 630 pounds, covered in thick rust-coloured fur and with a remarkably good grasp of the English language, the creature Frost encounters is not quite the legend he had in mind.

Indeed, the supposedly fearsome, primitive Sasquatch (Zach Galifianakis) reveals itself to be a gentle and intelligent being who longs to be with others of its kind – to finally understand its place in the world. Frost promptly dubs his ape-like acquaintance “Mr Link” after his aforementioned (now former) assistant, and together they chart a course for a lost paradise deep within the Himalayas known as Shangri-La, where an ancient tribe of Yeti are said to live in blissful solitude.

As these unlikely travelling companions make their way east via New York City and the Indian subcontinent, all while attempting to evade a cut-throat bounty hunter who has been hired to thwart Frost, the frantic, shaggy plot settles into a more relaxed rhythm. This is one of those films where the destination is much less important than the journey, and the slower pacing of the second and third acts allows us to savour the stunning vistas that establish each new setting.

Writer/director Chris Butler and his crew of animators, VFX artists, model makers and graphic designers created a staggering 110 sets with 65 unique locations over the course of the production. Yet for all the love, care and craft that has evidently gone into rounding out the world of the film, the characters who occupy it are conspicuously two-dimensional.

This swashbuckling stop-motion adventure is a lot of fun, but its cartoonish protagonists are easily forgotten (Zoe Saldana’s feisty heroine, Adelina Fortnight, feels especially superfluous), and although the emotional finale takes place in the highest mountain range on earth, the film arguably reaches its dramatic peak during that breathless opening set-piece. On a visual level, though, Missing Link is a rare and wonderful specimen.

Published 3 Apr 2019

Tags: Chris Butler Hugh Jackman Laika Stop-motion animation Zach Galifianakis Zoe Saldana

Anticipation.

Laika animations are always a treat.

Enjoyment.

And this one is no different.

In Retrospect.

Breathtaking visuals, slightly disappointing characters.

Related Reviews

Kubo and the Two Strings

By Charlie Theobald

Laika Studios may have delivered their masterpiece with this staggering stop-motion fable.

review LWLies Recommends

The Polish-American immigrant who changed the face of animation

By Georgina Guthrie

Max Fleischer, creator of Betty Boop and the rotoscope, was one of the great cartoonists of the 20th century.

The Boxtrolls

By Sophie Monks Kaufman

A delightful, comic animation with sophisticated social themes from the makers of ParaNorman and Coraline.

review LWLies Recommends

What are you looking for?

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.

Editorial

Design

Sign up to our newsletter to hear more from team LWLies