Monday, 8 April 2019

Review: Missing Link

Missing Link
Cert: PG / 95 mins / Dir. Chris Butler / Trailer

Laika's latest follows intrepid 19th century explorer Sir Lionel Frost (voiced by Hugh Jackman) as he follows a lead to Canada in search of the Sasquatch, or Bigfoot, certain that it represents the missing link in human evolution. When he arrives, the creature in question is a good deal more civilised than Frost had anticipated. Naming his venerable new partner Mr Link (Zach Galifanakis), the pair seek help from Frost's former acquaintance Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana) and trek to Nepal in a bid to locate the Yeti colony - a place where Link might finally feel at home…


The plot structure itself seems to channel Aardman's The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists somewhat. Taking potshots at colonial attitudes that may seem like an easy game in the 21st century, but they're undoubtedly deserving targets nonetheless. What's more, the third-act turnaround is just enough to give the audience something to think about, too.

Laika's work may not be as gag-laden as Aardman's but they're the two animation studios who can proudly stand shoulder-to-shoulder to Disney, precisely because they don't try to emulate what the House Of Mouse does*1. Each just makes its own brilliant films in their own brilliant way, and they're often much deeper thematically as a result.


Hugh Jackman gives a great vocal turn in the lead role (the model bearing fantastic likeness when it comes to his facial movements) with only a couple of minor slips in the accent*2. While Zoe Saldana and Zach Galifanakis are solid here, there's the feeling that they're probably not the best casting for the parts, both feeling like they're doing impersonations of their characters rather than bringing life to them.

It's a common gripe that if you're noticing the tiny but beautiful details in an animated film that there's something missing from the writing. And that may very well be the case, but with work as exquisite as this, that's understandable. That said, Chris Butler's story does feel a little linear. It's never less than fully engaging for the duration of the film, but I have to admit that once I'd left the cinema the lack of oomph quickly became apparent.


As has become the norm for this studio's work, hang around during the credits to get an idea of the sheer scale of the production. Once the names start rolling (and brilliantly, this begins by crediting the animators) you can make your way to the exit.

Missing Link may not have the heart of Kubo And The Two Strings, but then what does*3?

It's a damn good road-trip romp either way, and after witnessing the atrocity that is the trailer for The Qu*en's C*rgi, you know Missing Link is going to be one of the year's highlights…

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Well, it's more Pirates than Paranorman.

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
Oh hell yeah, the bigger the better.

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
It is.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
No, but only because the bar is unfeasibly high for cast and crew alike.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
That's possible.
Depends how wrong you are

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't. Bah.

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Emma Thompson's voice is in this (she's perfect, naturally), and she was in Love, Actually with Liam 'Qui-Gon' Neeson, Keira 'Sabé' Knightley and Thomas 'Thanisson' Brodie-Sangster.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 For the record, I wrote this review on Sunday night but didn't post it until Monday evening. Between those points, I caught up with the previous Friday's Wittertainment podcast, knowing I was 'safe' to do so with my thoughts on this new movie now written down and untouched by the subconscious influence of a critic I respect and admire a great deal (even if I only actually 'agree' with him about half the time). Anyhow, between the in-show interview with writer/director Chris Butler and Mark Kermode's review which followed, the points I've made about comparisons with Aardman, not needing to emulate Disney and cocking a snook at the British Empire of days past all arose, as did Kermode's view that the film is very, very good, but still not the best it possibly could be. Just thought I'd drop this in now so that you don't read this review and think 'yeah he's just copying what he heard on the radio again'. Fuck it, I'm not re-writing my review now, even though I know Wittertainment's observations aired before I'd even watched the film. It's just that on this occasion, Dr Kermode agrees with me… [ BACK ]

*2 The guy's Australian so he's already got a fantastic blank canvas for accent work, but there are a couple of moments where his 'a's are short where they should be long, in his role as a Victorian gentleman (it's the difference between 'cat' and 'cart' with a Brit accent). Anyway, I put it down to an oversight in the direction. It's certainly not a big deal, but regular readers will know how much things like this bug me. [ BACK ]

*3 Okay, Coco (and yeah that's a Disney film), but I mean apart from that. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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