Adventure For The Entire Family: A 'Missing Link' film review
by Will Lindus
Here at the Movie Bears Podcast, we’re very proud fans of the LAIKA animation studio’s feature films. From Coraline to Paranorman, Boxtrolls to critical-darling Kubo and the Two Strings, LAIKA’s stop-motion aesthetic and focus on family-friendly themes that never feel outright juvenile have been a delight to watch over the past decade. With their fifth feature, Missing Link, LAIKA (thankfully) recaptures that same joy and magic, proving once again that they are low-key one of the power players in quality animation.
Missing Link follows an intrepid explorer and monster hunter, Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman), who is searching for evidence of a cryptid so that he can join a prestigious lodge of hunters and explorers. He finds his opportunity when he is contacted by a sasquatch named Mr. Link (Zack Galifianakis) - errr, Susan - who enlists Frost to help him find the lost city of Shangri-La, where he hopes to be reunited with his distant relatives - yetis. Joined by fellow adventurer Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana), the trio embark on a dangerous journey across the world, and uncover the most important of finds - that of self-discovery.
Part of the joy of Missing Link is in its simplicity. At its heart, this is a road-trip buddy comedy, focusing on the relationship that forms between Frost and Mr. Susan Link during their journey. The two are both driven by goals which dominate their minds, but come to learn that what they need most is each other. The chemistry between the characters is crucial, but it works so well because of the voice performances by Jackman and Galifianakis. These are not complicated vocal performances, with both performers sounding very much like themselves. But the lines are performed with animated conviction - the highs feel high, the lows feel low, and the emotional range is sincere.
Bonus points go to Zoe Saldana as Adelina, who provides counter-balance to the Frost/Link friendship and serves as a potential romantic interest for Frost without sacrificing too much of her own agency in the process. And Emma Thompson as The Elder? An absolute scene-stealer!
Ya know what else sparks joy? The brilliantly realized stop-motion world that LAIKA crafts. Each setting on this adventure romp feels unique and vast. From the forests of the Pacific Northwest to dock-side cities, to the snow-capped mountains of Tibet, it is very easy to forget that this world is crafted in miniature by the LAIKA animation artists. It’s impressive just how big this world feels despite being made from such small parts.
Bottom Line: Missing Link is a lot of fun, with great performances and beautiful animation. The story doesn’t have quite the same heft as Kubo and the Two Strings, or the same surreal darkness of Coraline, but as a straight-forward adventure comedy, Missing Link has a ton of heart and provides a ton of laughs. With humor that will appeal to young children without being tedious for adults, this truly is a film that the entire family can enjoy.
3.5 out of 5 Bear Paws