HomeMoviesMissing Link Review: A Goofy, Adventure-Filled Stop Motion Romp

Missing Link Review: A Goofy, Adventure-Filled Stop Motion Romp

(L to R) Sir Lionel Frost voiced by Hugh Jackman, Mr. Link voiced by Zach Galifianakis and Adelina Fortnight voiced by Zoe Saldana in director Chris Butler’s MISSING LINK, a Laika Studios Production and Annapurna Pictures release. Photo Credit : Laika Studios / Annapurna Pictures

Missing Link Plot Summary:

Desperate for the respect of his fellow adventurers, Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) agrees to take the lonely sasquatch, Mr. Link (Zach Galifianakis) to his yeti cousins in exchange for proof of his existence.

Stop motion is a rare art these days. Oh sure, you get the occasional Wallace and Gromit cartoon, and every once in a while, Wes Anderson decides he wants to do a stop motion movie, but for the most part, it’s not something you see done for a whole feature film anymore. The only consistent major player left is Laika, the studio that made movies like Coraline, Kubo and the Two Strings, and now Missing Link. They still toil away on shot after shot, meticulously building their movies over the course of years until they’re ready to be released. And you can almost hear the studio mutter to itself, as it surveys the desolate landscape of modern stop motion: “Well, if we’re going to be the only ones doing it, we might as well be the best stop motion artists the world has ever seen.”

This is hardly an exaggeration. Since 2005, Laika has made countless innovations in the field, creating movies that look so good it can be hard to believe they’re stop motion. But Missing Link sees the studio at its most confident. Their last feature, Kubo and the Two Strings, contained incredible spectacle, from the largest stop motion figure ever made to breathtaking weather effects. There is still spectacle in Missing Link, still some amazing set pieces, but rather than the big and epic, Laika instead focuses their efforts on the minutest details. The way mud drips from Sir Lionel’s boots as he strides his way into a tavern, the beads of sweat trickling down a man’s face as he stands in front of a fireplace, the flutter of snow displaced by heavy footsteps—nothing is too small for Laika to lovingly and faithfully render.

Even this movie’s brisk 90 minutes would start to drag if there were nothing to recommend besides these gorgeous effects, though. Fortunately, Hugh Jackman and Zach Galifianakis turn out to have a surprising chemistry as Sir Lionel Frost and Mr. Link. Once the two meet (after a suitably heroic intro focusing on how Lionel gets to Mr. Link’s doorstep), the film becomes a buddy comedy centered around their mutual obliviousness — Sir Lionel’s from arrogance and Mr. Link’s from innocence. They play off each other well, and the film paces out its shifts from comedic dialogue to action sequence so adroitly that you never tire of either. Everything works together to make the movie simply a joy to watch unfold.

Having said all that, Missing Link is not quite Laika’s best. When it comes to story, it’s by far their most insubstantial movie to date. The globetrotting adventure genre piece it’s going for is fun, but it does little to break from that mold. What’s worse, the movie builds itself around Sir Lionel’s disregard for others as his fatal flaw, but it never commits to tipping his behavior over from comical neglect to outright callousness. When the big shift comes, it never feels like he’s been all that bad or really realized anything about his behavior.

Yet no one suffers worse from the writing than our third protagonist, Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana). A former lover of Lionel’s who is mourning the loss of her husband, the movie never quite knows what to do with her and thus consigns her to being little more than a tool for affecting Lionel’s character growth. There are efforts to transcend the stale sexism of that old trope, but last-minute subversions don’t make up for an entirely rote indulgence in it for the rest of the movie.

That’s not to say that Missing Link isn’t the total package that previous efforts were (like, say, ParaNorman, a criminally underrated gem). If you think you would enjoy some Raiders-esque adventure cut with clever wordplay and goofball comedy, it’s fairly easy to look past the weak story. And if you have any interest in the art of stop motion, there is basically no excuse to ever miss a movie that Laika puts out. The technical feats accomplished in creating this movie alone make Missing Link worth talking about. Everything else is just gravy.

Missing Link is now playing in theaters everywhere.

Chris Diggins
Chris Digginshttps://alittleperspective.substack.com
"Lord" Chris Diggins, "Grand Prognosticator of ThePopBreak.com" is a staff writer and incorrigible layabout for The Pop Break. He usually reviews TV and movies, although he sometimes writes ludicrously long pieces of critical analysis and badgers the editors to publish it. He cannot be stopped.

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