By: Trevor Chartrand
Animation studio Laika Entertainment has a reputation for dark and brooding content with releases like Corpse Bride (2005) or Coraline (2009), but this year’s Missing Link breaks their mold as a fun-for-most-ages adventure story.
The tale of Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman), Missing Link chronicles a self-involved new-world explorer on his search for Sasquatch in the early 20th century. Desperate to go down in history, Frost learns to favor friendship over fame when he meets a surprisingly articulate Bigfoot named Mr. Link (Zach Galifianakis). Together with his no-nonsense ex-girlfriend Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana), Frost journeys into the Himalayas to help his new furry pal find his yeti ancestors.
There’s plenty of fun to be had in this globe-trotting adventure – between the exploration, adventure and action sequences, viewers will be reminded of the Indiana Jones films and will undoubtedly notice their influence on Missing Link. The animation looks great: with expressive character designs and detailed set pieces and world-building, this film is certainly worth a watch.
Having said that, the hardest thing to pin down with this film is the age group it’s aimed for, especially with audiences becoming more and more sensitive and animated movies becoming more and more watered down in recent years. Much like this month’s Shazam!, this family film isn’t afraid to mix some adult humor among the jokes for the little ones. It’s never any raunchier or any more inappropriate than Shrek was in 2001, but current kids movies tend to play things safer, and this material may be jarring for unsuspecting parents.
The characters and morals in Missing Link are strong, with the theme of putting others first presented in a way that respects kids and their critical thinking skills. Children will be able to access the lessons of the movie, and the film doesn’t ever pander to them or spell it out. The weakest characters in this film are the underdeveloped villains, who don’t appear to be motivated enough to go to such great lengths to keep Sasquatch a secret. Stephen Fry and Timothy Olyphant turn in fantastic vocal performances, but the characters themselves are weak and underutilizes. The rest of the cast is great as well, with strong chemistry between the entire ensemble. Galifianakis is especially funny as the fish-out-of-water Sasquatch who takes everything literally. The comedy is timed well and the actors effectively bring life to their animated counterparts.
It’s impossible to review this film without comparing it to that other recently-released Sasquatch movie, Smallfoot (2018). Now I’d consider Missing Link as a comedic and thoughtful film, and Smallfoot as more of a vapid, yet entertaining… babysitting tool. That is, parents can put Smallfoot on to distract the kids while they get some chores done, but the whole family is more likely to be engaged while watching Missing Link.
Overall, Missing Link is a fun and funny film that parents and (most) kids should enjoy. With plenty of material, there’s undoubtedly something for everyone here. The action is exciting and the adventure takes us to beautifully rendered locales from all over the world. The characters are fun and the story is simple, but engaging. This is a harmless and highly recommended film for kids and parents alike. Just be sure to check some of your sensitives at the door.
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Trevor Chartrand: @OhHaiTrebor