I saw this on the same day as Hellboy, two films that could really not be further apart. Hellboy is a cynical and transparent attempt to cash-in on a long-dormant series. While this is a charming, artful film from a very consistent animation studio.
Laika Animation are the studio in question. They debuted in 2006 with Coraline (although they did some work on Corpse Bride before this), a very enjoyable and stylish stop-motion tale, and stop-motion has been their comfort zone ever since. Their last film was the incredible Kubo and the Two Strings, an absorbing tale influenced by Japanese mythology.
So here comes their latest offering, with an all-star cast and their usual charming visual flair, do Laika have another success on their hands?
Sir Lionel Frost is a world-travelling adventurer in the 19th century. Rejected from the ‘respectable’ adventuring community, he embarks on a journey to discover the legendary Sasquatch, but upon finding him, gets more than he bargained for.
One word I used in the introduction that I feel fits this movie well, is charming. Everything about it is pleasant to the senses, from the animation style, to the voice performances, everything comes together to create a world that radiates atmosphere and love.
While the plot keeps a brisk pace, often relegating the travel segments of the adventure to very short montages, it is as loaded as it needs to be. It doesn’t over-load itself with cheap jokes, instead drawing us in with characters with believable and sympathetic arcs. It’s not completely above making a juvenile joke or two, but that is forgivable if it is earned, if it comes along a substantial plot, and it does.
The characters are really where the film shines, the titular character of Mr Link (later renamed to Susan, for comedic purposes of course. Voiced by Zach Galifianakis) is a tragic character, despite his outwardly beastly appearance, he hides a soft, lonely heart.
Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) almost undergoes the exact opposite arc, starting as a respectable, yet slightly dim-witted, member of the upper classes, his intention to gain more respect soon changes when he realises that a man’s heart makes him great.
Yes, that is a bit of a hackneyed, cliched premise, but even a cliched plot can be enjoyable when delivered well, and this is well.
Helped immensely by the animation style that hold on to its stop-motion roots, when it starts to look more computer rendered it encounters trouble. This might not be the case, but it looks as though different characters were made in different ways, and it can be jarring. For example, Lionel Frost and Mr Link look sleek and well realised, whereas Adelina (Zoe Saldana) looks too machine-like. Again, this may be completely false, but that’s what it looked like.
But, despite these visual-based gripes, on a whole it looks great, specifically speaking towards the end, the design of the environments look great, as well of the characters.
While the plot is a bit old-hat, and the character design is a bit wobbly, there is a lot to love in Missing Link, when its animation style works, it looks phenomenal, the characters are well-rounded, and for a family audience, it deals with some challenging themes. There are a lot worse films you could take your kids to see this Easter.