"Missing Link" Review: Something's Missing Alright!
You may not know the name Laika Studios, but you know their work. Movies like Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls and Kubo and the Two Strings are some their beloved prior films. While Missing Link is just as gorgeously handcrafted as their previous works, its missing the magic to elicit the warm fuzzies like its predecessors.
Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) is an explorer and investigator of myths and monsters in the age of global exploration. He is fearless in his quest to find these creatures, but can’t seem to keep an assistant in doing so. After his latest assistant walks out, he receives a letter from Mr. Links (Zach Galifianakis), who turns out to be Big Foot. With the west being conquered by pioneers in North America, Mr. Links desires to find his long lost relatives, the Abominable Snowmen in Shangri-La. Not knowing how to get there, Frost and Links visit Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana), a widow whose husband possessed a map to the mythical place.
Writer/Director Chris Butler is a master craftsman of the optics of the film. His attention to detail make for an entertaining watch. The light by the fireplace produces a warm orange on characters’ faces, an aerial shot in which the heroes travel by horse and carriage shows the shadows of the horses galloping along beside it, and the facial movements of the characters are so spot on that you can’t help but be swept away by the performances. The marriage between the actors’ delivery of lines to the crafting of their animated image is perfection! There is a grandmother the cast meets on the way to Shangri-La who is perhaps the funniest character in the film, but Butler shows her with a constant head tremor. It’s such a small detail, but it makes her character so authentic. The craftsmanship of the film must be honored!
While the visuals and voice acting is amazing in this film, the story is just plain dull. The screenplay doesn’t rise above stereotypical fare. You could argue that this is a film about the characters finding themselves on the harrowing journey to Shangri-La, but that’s boiler plate marketing. The screenplay gives little to care about by investing in the characters we see. So much of the film consists of watching the set production and waiting for the next bit of humor to break up the stodgy storyline.
Generally, I could give the stamp of approval for your kids enjoying the film more than you will, but I’m not so sure this time. The script and its’ jokes strike somewhere in between humor for kids and adult humor (and that doesn’t equal teenage humor), thus it gets lost in the middle of nowhere. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s some missing link to making this film great! As beautiful as it is, it may be best to catch this one after it gets out of the theaters.