Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Movie Review: Missing Link

Missing Link *** ½ / *****
Directed by: Chris Butler.
Written by: Chris Butler.
Starring: Hugh Jackman (Sir Lionel Frost), Zach Galifianakis (Mr. Link), Zoe Saldana (Adelina Fortnight), Timothy Olyphant (Willard Stenk), Emma Thompson (The Elder), Stephen Fry (Lord Piggot-Dunceby), Amrita Acharia (Ama Lhamu), Ching Valdes-Aran (Gamu), Matt Lucas (Mr. Collick), David Walliams (Mr. Lemuel Lint).
Through five films now, Laika Animation has carved out a niche for itself in the usually uniform world of Hollywood animation. They are less interested in the kind of colorful, chaotic energy that move so fast from joke to joke, to chase sequence to action sequence, and back again at breakneck pace – as if kids will get bored if you aren’t constantly jolting them with action and jokes. Laika’s film – Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls, Kubo and the Two Strings and now Missing Link – all take their time, are more concerned with the look and feel of the environments they take place in, and the relationships between the characters than anything else. Sadly, while Laika’s films are often far superior to most of what Hollywood produces, they have yet to really land a big box office success. Parents – not the children, who don’t get to decide these things – seem to be avoiding Laika films for some reason. I can speak from experience, that kids love these films – which are often sweet and lovable, while still being inventive.
Their latest film centers of Sir Lionel Frost (voiced by Hugh Jackman), an 19th Century English adventurer who isn’t respected by the upper crust of English society adventurers. He is a lone wolf sort – he cannot keep an assistant, and has driven away those around him with his obsession with finding mythical monsters (the opening sequence is a wonderful confrontation with the Loch Ness monster). He receives a letter from the New World – telling him the location of the famed Bigfoot. When he arrives, he discovers Mister Link aka Susan (Zach Galifinakis) – who wrote the letter himself. He is the last of his kind, and needs help making his way across the world to Shangri-La – land of his cousins, the Yeti. They will eventually be joined by Lionel’s ex Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana) and pursued by Willard Stenk (Timothy Olyphant) – hired by those evil upper crust English adventurers to prevent Lionel from achieving his goal.
The film is just of 90 minutes long, and yet it still moves at what could be called a leisurely pace. Director Chris Butler (one of the directors of ParaNoman) relishes the various locations that he and has team have created – from the foggy Loch in the opening sequence, to the stuffy club of those adventures, to the forest where Mister Link is hiding, to the Western town they stop off at, to the Shangri-La at the end. These environments have been lovingly created by the animators, and Butler makes the most of them. The movie has a laid back quality to its relationship between Lionel and Mister Link as well. You know where it is going – something that starts as transactional, grows into a real friendship – but it never feels rushed here, it feels genuine. The humor in the film is clever and smart, without becoming overly jokey. The action sequences are imaginably staged and fun, without going over the top.
I do think that Missing Link is probably a step below Laika’s best work. It looks gorgeous to be sure – but it’s not quite as eye-popping as Kubo and the Two Strings or Coraline, and it’s not quite as original or bold as some of their best work. And yet, compared to most of what is marketed to kids, Missing Link is wonderful and big hearted and funny – and yes, beautiful. It treats its child viewers with respect. And it deserves to find a wider audience than it has found so far. Trust me parents, when you end up putting this on Netflix in a year, you will have wished you watched it in a theater.

1 comment:

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