Beautiful animation can't hide poor storytelling in Missing Link
In this era of movie franchises and pop culture adaptations in which we now reside, getting an animated movie that’s not based on some kind of existing property is a rarity. Laika Entertainment, the group behind Kubo and the Two Strings and Coraline, has been churning out films like that for over a decade using their patented stop motion/CGI hybrid method.
Their latest, Missing Link, looks as fantastic as ever, but may have needed some help in the story department. It centers on explorer Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman), who’s searched the world for elusive so-called mythical creatures in order to be accepted into an elite club. In a final attempt, he stakes his reputation on his claim that he can find the elusive sasquatch/Bigfoot, thought to be hiding in the Pacific Northwest in the United States.
Bigfoot (Zach Galifianakis) turns out to be much different than Frost had anticipated, as he can talk and write, and wanted nothing more than to be found by Frost. Dubbed Mr. Link by Frost, the two set out on an adventure to find Link’s long-lost cousins, the Yetis, in the Himalayas. The elite club’s leader, Lord Piggot-Dunceb (Stephen Fry), sends a bounty hunter, Stenk (Timothy Olyphant), to try to impede their progress at every turn.
As Laika now has six feature films under their belt, the animation is as impeccable as you’d hope. Nothing is designed to be hyper-realistic, but the detail the filmmakers, led by writer/director Chris Butler, put into every aspect of the film is staggering. There are the expected things like Link’s unique fur or the various humans, but other elements that would seem difficult to accomplish complete the immersive experience.
It’s great that the film is as pretty as it is as Butler never seems to find his footing with the story. The potential for fun is there, but the film never truly delivers, settling for jokes that are either too dry or too broad. The adventure the core group, which includes Zoe Saldana’s Adeline for no reason other than to have a female presence, goes on should convey a sense of wonder, but that too falls flat.
The idea of casting big name actors in voice roles persists in this film, although it remains unclear what their presence does for anybody in the audience. While each does a fine job in their respective roles, it’s doubtful that the film would do any better or worse if it were non-star voice actors speaking instead of Jackman, Galifianakis, or Saldana.
Missing Link is beautiful to look at, something for which Laika should be rightfully proud. It’s just a shame that the story attached to it doesn’t live up that standard.