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Missing Link Movie Review

Missing Link (2019) movie poster Missing Link

Theatrical Release: April 12, 2019 / Running Time: 94 Minutes / Rating: PG

Writer/Director: Chris Butler

Voice Cast: Hugh Jackman (Sir Lionel Frost), Zach Galifianakis (Mr. Link/Susan), Zoe Saldana (Adelina Fortnight), Emma Thompson (The Elder), Stephen Fry (Lord Piggot-Dunceby), Timothy Olyphant (Willard Stenk), David Walliams (Mr. Lemuel Lint), Matt Lucas (Mr. Collick), Amrita Acharia (Ama Lhamu), Ching Valdes-Aran (Gamu)


If quality is the foremost measure of success, then Laika Studios has a perfect batting average so far. The company's first four stop-motion animated films -- Coraline (2009), ParaNorman (2012), The Boxtrolls (2014),
and Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) -- have all been good. None of them have reached the highs of top-tier Pixar and other great achievements in the medium, but nor have they ever been even average works.

Laika's fifth film, Missing Link, takes a step away from the company's signature gentle horror sensibilities. Narratively, it feels much closer to the work of another stop-motion studio, the UK's Aardman Animations. But it maintains Laika's silver standard of quality, boasting wit, imagination, and ample entertainment value.

The film opens with our protagonist, Sir Lionel Frost (voiced by Hugh Jackman), in pursuit of the Loch Ness Monster with a thankless assistant aiding him. This is what Sir Frost, a nineteenth century monster hunter, does, chasing after concrete evidence of beasts considered by some to be mythical.

In Laika's "Missing Link", monster hunter Sir Lionel Frost (voiced by Hugh Jackman) discovers a Sasquatch (voiced by Zach Galifianakis) in the US Pacific Northwest.

Though his walls are decorated with accomplishments in his field, Frost still longs for validation from a exclusive club of gentlemen who look down on his efforts and scoff at his theories of evolution. Frost's chief rival, Lord Piggot-Dunceby (Stephen Fry), agrees to a bet that will allow Frost admission into the club if he can return from America's Pacific Northwest with indisputable evidence of the Sasquatch.

Frost likes his chances on the mission, largely because he has received a letter from someone in the Northwest vouching for the giant creature's existence. Turns out the letter is from the Sasquatch himself, the hairy 8-foot monster (a perfect vocal showcase for Zach Galifianakis) that Frost comes to name Mr. Link. Link wants Frost to lead him to the Himalayas where his cousins, the yetis, are rumored to live.

To ensure Frost doesn't make good on his bet, Piggot-Dunceby hires a thug with a scarred bald head (Timothy Olyphant) to off the adventurer. That adds a layer of intrigue as does Frost's love interest, Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana), the widow of an old colleague whose Himalayan maps Frost would love to use on this mission.

Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman), Mr. Link (Zach Galifianakis), and Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana) journey to the Himalayas in search of Shangri-La (and yetis).

Missing Link has a British sensibility to it, which makes sense since its writer-director, ParaNorman's Chris Butler was born and raised in the UK.
The Northwest setting may reflect the fact that Laika's headquarters is in Oregon. There's an international flavor to the production, with its multicultural voice cast and taste for globe-trotting.

This is not another animated movie. It will not be mistaken for Smallfoot, the last major animated movie to explore human-yeti relations half a year ago. Nor will it be confused for a Disney, Pixar, or Illumination production. The visuals, which you might mistake for CGI, are in fact traditional, painstaking stop-motion and they are pretty striking. But mostly you'll just be swept up in this universe with these compelling characters.

It's hard to find anything wrong with Missing Link. The only thing I can think of is that it lacks an obvious audience. Too grown-up and scientifically principled for kids to really get behind, the film is nonetheless a mainstream animated film and therefore not highbrow or artsy enough to attract many adult moviegoers. Modest commercial prospects have been a feature, if not a concern, on all of Laika's movies to date. Coraline performed reasonably well in a year when a variety of animation styles were being employed, grossing $75 million domestic and $125 M worldwide on a relatively modest $60 M budget. All of Laika's subsequent movies have reportedly cost the exact same amount and all have grossed less than Coraline, despite playing in about 1,000 more theaters than it. Kubo, highly acclaimed by critics in late summer 2016, set a record low for the studio, generating clear losses both here and abroad.

Missing Link has another challenge for it besides its uncertain marketability. Focus Features, the arthouse division of Universal that distributed Laika's first four films, has apparently opted not to continue partnering with the stop-motion house. Taking over distribution on this one is Annapurna Pictures, whose own documented commercial challenges have led to them adopting the United Artists Releasing banner on a venture with MGM. Annapurna's box office struggles, which led many to suspect closure, do not inspire much confidence in this enterprise finding an appreciative audience. I would be surprised if it gets close to Kubo's numbers, even if reviews should be kind and family movie competition is rather light at the moment.

Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: Shazam! Dumbo Captain Marvel Five Feet Apart Pet Sematary
Laika: Kubo and the Two Strings Coraline
Stop-Motion Animation: The Pirates! Band of Misfits Fantastic Mr. Fox Isle of Dogs Frankenweenie

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Reviewed April 12, 2019.

Text copyright 2019 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2019 United Artists Releasing, Annapurna Pictures, and Laika.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.