Cast: Zach Galifianakis, Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Fry
Director: Chris Butler
As a firm believer of the idea that competition breeds excellence, and with a movie like Missing Link coming out, Disney needs to bring their A-game this year if they don’t want to be shut out at the Academy Awards again. Looking at Butler’s past work on films like ParaNorman and Kubo and the Two Strings, I had some pretty lofty expectations for this movie at I’m pleased to say it met them all. A pleasant, refreshing 94-minute breeze of a movie, Missing Link is the type of animated movie that almost anyone can pick up and enjoy regardless of your typical tastes.
The film follows Sir Lionel Frost (voiced by Jackman), an adventurer who makes a living off investigating mythical monsters and legends. When Mr. Link (voiced by Galifianakis), a docile Bigfoot from the Pacific Northwest asks Lionel to help relocate him to the Himalayas to be with his Yeti cousins. The two must overcome various obstacles during their journey including Lionel’s former girlfriend Adelina (voiced by Saldana) and Lord Piggot-Dunceby (voiced by Fry), a rival adventurer that sends an assassin to kill the trio. The elements that make this film so successful are the animation style and the comedy. Based on Laika’s past films, I expected this be a truly spectacular-looking film, and it may just be one of their best ones yet. I appreciate a good stop-motion film just because it’s such a difficult process to nail down, and Missing Link is one of the best in recent years. There’s a particular scene on a ship where the whole set is rotating like the hallway fight from Inception and this scene alone is proof enough of how great stop-motion animation can be. I can’t imagine how hard this scene would’ve been to make on a computer, but the fact that this was done by hand is truly a work of art. Regarding the comedy, Galifianakis does the best job of the cast in converting his traditionally adult humor into something more family-friendly at all-age appropriate. There’s a significant amount of sarcasm and wordplay throughout the movie, and while that’s not traditionally my favorite brand of comedy, it works in the environment that this world creates. Galifianakis was the perfect choice to voice Mr. Link as his voice is goofy and endearing enough where the jokes have that much more of an impact. Galifianakis and Jackman develop an amazing chemistry and Jackman’s deeper and more masculine voice provides a funny contrast to Galifianakis’ higher-pitched and sillier voice. Sure the story is pretty generic and teaches a lesson we’ve seen countless times beforehand, but the lesson and story are enjoyable enough where it doesn’t matter if it’s been rehashed. When you have a movie that looks and feels as impressive as this one, it’s completely fine for the story to take more of a backseat and for the film to focus more on the areas where it can thrive more. As with previous Laika films, Missing Link knows how to use its animation style effectively and does so at potentially its highest level ever.
Overall, I think Disney will probably end up reclaiming the Best Animated Feature Academy Award, but Missing Link has absolutely turned the heat up and will make them give their best effort with their upcoming releases. Missing Link is well-voiced, beautifully animated, and an overall fun time from start to finish. Young audiences will enjoy it because it follows the usually animated film formula, but other viewers will easily be able to find elements that they can find entertaining too. I love it when some of these smaller studios come out with truly great movies, and it looks like Laika has another one on their hands with Missing Link
Overall Score: 8/10