Stop-motion animation studio LAIKA is back with yet another gorgeously crafted, heartwarming story with plenty of laughs and tears to be shed along the way.
Tired of living a solitary life in the Pacific Northwest, Mr Link (voice of Zach Galifianakis), who is 8 feet tall and covered in fur, recruits fearless explorer Sir Lionel Frost (voice of Hugh Jackman) to guide him on a journey to find his long-lost relatives in the fabled valley of Shangri-La. Along with adventurer Adelina Fortnight (voice of Zoe Saldana), the trio encounters their fair share of peril as they travel to the far reaches of the world. Through it all, they learn that sometimes one can find a family in the places one least expects.
Ever since I saw LAIKA’s phenomenal 2009 debut feature Coraline, I have been in awe of what this studio has been able to craft throughout the years. Much like the films from Pixar and Disney, I genuinely feel as if all of LAIKA’s films are unique and incredibly well told with fresh stories every single time. My favorite animated feature of all time is LAIKA’s Kubo and the Two Strings, directed by Travis Knight who went on to direct the exceptional hit Bumblebee back in December.
Kubo was a film that had a plethora of mature themes it explored and did so in a way that had never been done before in the animation department. All of their movies have a sense of childlike wonder to them and while watching any one of their films, it will more than likely make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
But to be honest with you, when the first trailer was released online for Missing Link, I was not all that impressed with what I saw. Something about it did not feel right and the way the trailer was edited together felt jarring. Overall, I was trying to be optimistic about it all and have faith in the studio since that had delivered some incredible gems throughout the years.
Now that the film has been released and I have seen it, I can gratefully inform you that Missing Link is yet another win for LAIKA, and while it never quite reaches the heights of Coraline or Kubo, it still manages to tell an exciting, adventurous tale with skill. One of the many reasons why this film impresses is due to its remarkable voice cast with Galifianakis, Jackman, and Saldana being the lead voice actors here. Those names are just scratching the surface of the talent behind this film, and all of the performances here are truly great.
Throughout the picture, we spend quite a bit of time with the characters of Mr. Link and Sir Lionel Frost, and their chemistry and the way they work off of one another is amazing and always creates for truly hilarious moments. Sir Lionel Frost is a man who is quite egotistical and can be a bit snappy at people at times, whereas Mr. Link is an extremely charming and open creature who is a bit lost in the world. The stark contrast between the two creates for some memorable moments and also some heartfelt ones.
A big surprise with Missing Link was the amount of action sequences it had scattered throughout. While LAIKA’s previous works did certainly have fun and exciting moments, there were never too many and instead focused on other elements. It was honestly great to see a stop-motion animation feature with so many exciting sequences, with one scene in a saloon being a true standout.
Unfortunately, the film does falter when it comes to the romance between Adelina Fortnight and Sir Lionel Frost. The first time we see these two flirting with one another on screen, it felt like it was just there for a one time joke and that was it. But then as the plot was moving forward, the romance between the two was still being used for laughs and it sadly just came across forced and cringe-worthy.
It also does not feel as feel as grand or wonderous as the studios’ previous efforts. While this is definitely a good movie, it does at times feel like a simple movie that you can watch and get enjoyment out of, but it never feels like a true spectacle.
Missing Link manages to impress with its gorgeous animation style, terrific voice performances, and exciting action sequences.
Overall Grade: B+
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for action/peril and some mild rude humor
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana, Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, David Walliams, Timothy Olyphant, Matt Lucas, Amrita Acharia, Zach Galifianakis
Directed by: Chris Butler
Distributed by: United Artists Releasing
Running Time: 94 minutes