Laika return to a world of animated films overrun by CG, anime, and the occasional 2D affair. There seems to be less and less room for the stop-motion art form. This should hardly come as a surprise due to the immense amount of time and money that goes into stop-motion. After impressing with the likes of Coraline, The Boxtrolls, Paranorman, and Kubo and the Two Strings, it would be an understatement to say that Missing Link is very anticipated. With a stellar cast providing their vocal talents, and Chris Butler penning and directing, there would be no reason to think that disappointment would be lying in the wings.

Lionsgate

Unfortunately, it is disappointment that rings throughout a moderately charming tale, and that is all down to the very generic story. Showing itself as just an interpretation of Around the World in 80 Days, Hugh Jackman voices Sir Lionel Frost, a wannabe explorer who loves tracking down cryptozoological creatures. However, his ultimate goal is to be welcomed by a club of explorers lead by Stephen Fry’s pompous aristocrat. From here a wager is set for Frost to prove the existence of the Sasquatch, but unbeknownst to him an assassin, Stenk (Timothy Olyphant), has been hired to derail the expedition.

Frost quickly comes across the Sasquatch, Mr Link (Zach Galifianakis), who wants to be discovered and aided in finding his yeti cousins in the Himalayas. Frost is an unlikable protagonist, one who puts others’ lives in danger all for the sake of his ego. It’s a fine starting point, but a very predictable one. The real hindrance comes in the fact that most character development is handled in clumsy dialogue with Frost’s potential love interest, Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana). These conversations consist of Adelina spelling out Frost’s character flaws and him acting on them. For a film with such visual flair, it’s a shame that lessons and themes have to be spelled out, especially since they are obvious to gauge from the outset.

But those visuals are amazing, and really elevate the film. Taking us on a trip from Loch Ness, in an exciting and tone setting set-piece, to the wild west and frozen Himalayas, the eyes are constantly treated to fantastic locales. Whether stop-motion or CG enhanced backgrounds, the film has a distinct aesthetic that beautifully elevates the mediocre script. As do the vocal talents. Olyphant is wonderful as a grotesque gunslinger, while Galifianakis adds adorable charm and whimsy to Mr. Link, though his literal understanding of language and good nature become tiresome and a roadblock for any development of interest. Jackman does smug very well, and somewhere you feel as though a much better buddy comedy could have transpired.

Although harmless and with enough enjoyable moments, the simplistic comedy, generic plotting, and no real stand out characters (aside from the titular Sasquatch), Missing Link is the first disappointment from Laika. It’s not damaging enough to make anyone wary of their next entry, and it is encouraging that they feel confident enough to go for a lighter tone and colour pallete. But all that said, this is a gentle tale with a much more child friendly feel, but most importantly, it exhibits a stunning form of art that everyone should be exposed to.

Missing Link is released in cinemas on Friday 5th April.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Missing Link