Missing Link, the latest film to featuring the big-footed creature that has eluded our sight, is the latest from the animation studio Laika. Coming off their hugely successful, Oscar nominated film Kubo and the Two Strings, the company is quickly rising to fame. Their use of classic stop motion and modern computer animation makes for some beautiful sets and character designs. They also have some of the most imaginative stories out of any of the existing studios.
Now, there latest endeavor takes us back to the 19th century, where we meet the great adventurer Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman). He spends his days looking for proof of the existence of legendary creatures, like the Loch Ness Monster. However, his inability to keep said proof in hand makes him the laughing stock of all the gentlemen’s clubs in England.
But when he receives a mysterious letter inviting him to America to search for another legend, he can’t help but take the chance. Turns out, the letter was written by none other than Bigfoot himself (Zach Galifianakis). The creature, dubbed Mr. Link by Frost, requests that he take him to the other side of the world to be with creatures related to his kind. With the help of an old friend of Frost’s named Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana), they will transverse the globe in search of Mr. Link’s home.
Bigfoot is a popular subject today. There have been so many sightings; most faked, some hard to debunk. It’s debatable whether or not he actually exists, but he’s certainly a well-used subject in the movies. However, most films made about him are horror films, more specifically found footage horror films. It’s rare to get a family friendly one about him. We’ve had a few, but they’ve mostly been low budget ones.
Now that we have a big studio film about him, it’s wasn’t really worth the wait. Missing Link’s animation and voice cast are perfect in every way, but its shopworn story and underdeveloped characters make us wonder why we have another film about the legend. It doesn’t do much to differentiate itself from other Bigfoot films, or really other family friendly adventure films.
Right from the start, Lionel Frost is depicted as a charismatic person, perfectly portrayed by Hugh Jackman. But he’s a character we’ve seen before. We’ve seen the fearless adventure who puts himself before anyone else when it comes to proving the existence of legends. He’s selfish, arrogant, and eager to please anyone that sees him as a nut job.
The other characters seem more like cutouts as well. Mr. Link is charming, but he’s your basic, goofy sidekick who doesn’t know much about the world, and he doesn’t do anything to stand apart from others. The same goes for Ms. Fortnight, who is your basic female ally who isn’t helpless and always comes to the rescue. Neither of these characters develop that much throughout the course of the film, at least not in any substantial way.
The story also is about as basic as it gets. It relies on the same basic clichés of the adventure genre, running through them one by one with no real intention to do anything new or interesting with them. This makes the film rather predictable, and the further we go along, the more boring it becomes. It all culminates in a message about the way we treat the world that feels pretty mundane, and we get nothing from it in the end.
That’s not to say that this film has nothing good about it. It succeeds in two different departments. The first is the acting. The voice cast is perfectly chosen; with each actor perfectly portraying their respective characters without missing a beat. The second is the animation department, like most films made by Laika. The world they have constructed for this film are absolutely stunning. It’s a vibrant and colorful world, probably one of the most detailed ones the studio has ever created. It makes you want to explore it for yourself.
Missing Link tries it’s best to be something different, and for families looking for a fun time at the movies, this is one to consider taking them to. Unfortunately, the story and characters adhere a little too closely to established formulas to be anything truly special. It’s saved by its stellar voice cast and beautiful animation save it from being a total waist of time, but it’s the first time a film by Laika doesn’t seem to speak to anyone except the least demanding audience.