05th Apr2019

‘Missing Link’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Hugh Jackman, Zach Galifianakis, Zoe Saldana, David Walliams, Stephen Fry, Matt Lucas, Timothy Olyphant, Amrita Acharia, Ching Valdes-Aran, Emma Thompson | Written and Directed by Chris Butler

missing-link-poster

Written and directed by Chris Butler, hugely entertaining animated adventure Missing Link is the fifth film from Laika, the stop-motion studio behind Coraline and The Boxtrolls. As such, it’s significantly lighter and less nightmare-inducing than their previous films, but is likely to prove just as much of a hit, thanks to impeccable artistry and a witty script.

The film opens with dashing British adventurer Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) attempting to photograph a decidedly camera-shy Loch Ness Monster, in a mission that goes disastrously wrong and causes his hitherto loyal assistant to quit. In search of a discovery that will gain him entry to London’s exclusive Optimates Club, Frost accepts the invitation in a mysterious letter that invites him to Oregon, in the hopes of proving the existence of the Sasquatch.

However, when he arrives, Frost is astonished to discover that the Sasquatch (Zach Galifianakis), who he names, “Mr Link”, can not only speak English, but also sent the letter in the first place. The pair quickly agree on a deal: Mr Link will prove his existence, if Frost will escort him to Shangri-La in the Himalayas, where he hopes to be welcomed by his distant cousins, the Yetis. With the assistance of Frost’s old flame, Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana), the duo embark on their quest, but they’re pursued by ruthless, snaggle-toothed wrong’un Willard Stenk (Timothy Olyphant), who’s been enlisted by Frost’s Optimates rival Lord Piggot-Dunceby (Stephen Fry) to ensure their mission ends in failure.

The animation is utterly gorgeous throughout, even by Laika’s already high standards. As detailed in a fascinating mid-credits scene, the technique is almost entirely stop-motion, with some digital enhancements, particularly in the backgrounds. The result is simply breath-taking, from the appealing character designs to the fabulous use of colour and the stunning level of detail in the backgrounds (Laika have an undeniable talent for world-building) that will richly reward future viewings.

The script is consistently funny, serving up a series of witty lines and great visual gags. In particular, Butler gets terrific mileage from the relationship between Frost and Mr Link, not least in the latter’s somewhat literal-minded approach to the English language – a sustained set-piece on that theme (“Throw this rope over the wall”) is one of several comic highlights.

The voice cast deliver note perfect performances. Jackman is a joy as Frost, making him warmer and more understanding than the blow-hard, self-obsessed adventurer he could easily have been, while Galifianakis is superb as Mr Link, giving him an inquisitive, thoughtful quality that is utterly charming. Similarly, Saldana brings fiery spirit to Adelina (tellingly, the film eschews a romantic subplot), while Fry is eminently hissable as the main villain and Olyphant adds a welcome touch of Bill Paxton to Stenk. There’s also an unexpected but welcome turn from Emma Thompson, though to say any more would lessen the comedic impact of her appearance.

On top of that, Butler’s direction is extremely impressive, particularly when it comes to staging a stop-motion action sequence – both the opening rescue scene with the Loch Ness Monster and a climactic sequence involving a deep chasm are genuinely thrilling, with the latter providing more nail-biting suspense than any number of recent live-action thrillers.

In short, Laika have done it again - Missing Link is a beautifully made, brilliantly acted and thoroughly enjoyable animated adventure that’s a treat for adults and children alike.

**** 4/5

Missing Link is in UK cinemas now.

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