From such an acclaimed animation studio, you would hope for more than this.
A British hunter looking for fame and fortune goes in search of the legendary Sasquatch. But what he finds is not what he expected at all; a living, breathing, talking creature who enlisted his help to find his way home.
Laika animation studio are responsible for some of the greatest stop-motion animated movies in the last decade: Coraline, ParaNorman, and Kubo and the Two Strings, two list their finest productions. Kubo is the standout, perhaps, by tackling jaw-dropping action sequences and special effects with the limitations of stop motion techniques, they have been single-handedly rewriting the book on what is possible.
Enter their next instalment after Kubo and… feel a little disappointed. Watching Missing Link reminds me of the later years Wallace & Gromit features from Aardman studios, constantly wondering why a studio of such fame and talent has decided to make something so… recycled. From the trailers, Missing Link is an all-out comedy, and for the most part it is, ParaNorman is probably the closest comparison of their previous work. Which is accurate, since that was director Chris Butler’s other project with Laika. We have a comedy duo in Lionel Frost and Mr Link, voiced by Hugh Jackman and Zack G respectively, with one playing the comic foil for the straight man. That’s almost entirely it. Frost speaks with turns-of-phrase almost constantly, Mr Link takes everything literally. That’s all the comedy we have, over and over again.
It is like someone saw Dave Bautista in Guardians of the Galaxy and thought an entire screenplay could hang on that one joke.
But, despite this being the bulk of the movie, it starts out surprisingly grim. We see Lionel meeting with the unashamed villains of the story, a trope of upper-class hunters in London. Heck, the first lines from Stephen Fry’s monstrous character is basically 1800s racism; hinting at slavery and missionary work, even murder. It was almost undetectable, but it is there.
The film does have a very stable pace, except for one or two main action set pieces. Young children might find it a little dull, especially combined with Frost’s dedication to word play that they won’t get.
The film does have some good moments though, one cannot condemn it entirely. The opening scene with Lionel and his co-worker attempting to wrangle the Loch Ness monster had some great water effects (and underwater effects), while there is an action sequence on an absurdly listing cruise ship in the Atlantic that reminded me of Inception. For a Laika movie, it certainly has a lot of variety in the visuals. While they don’t quite pop as much as Kubo or Coraline, the animation takes our characters to all corners of the globe: London, American forests, jungles, Himalayan snow peaked mountains. It has a vast array of sights to show, all lavishly detailed in the ways only Laika know how.
So overall, Missing Link feels a little lacklustre in terms of what Laika is capable of. The characters aren’t particularly deep, the humour falls flat more often than it doesn’t.