Laika have quietly become one of the most consistent and exciting names in animation. Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls were all really good films, then in 2016 they made Kubo and the Two Strings, which was an absolute masterpiece. Now they’re finally following it up with their latest stop-motion film, Missing Link.
Missing Link follows Sir Lionel Frost, and adventurer who investigates myths and monsters around the world. After receiving a letter informing him how to find the Sasquatch he sets out to prove its existence to the rest of London’s exploring elite. Once he meets the Sasquatch, who Frost names Mr. Link, they undertake a journey to take Mr. Link to the Himalayas to find the Yeti. Hindrance comes from Lord Piggot-Dunceb, who is determined for Frost to fail, and his hired bounty hunter Willard Stenk. It’s a fun adventure that throws together these completely different characters, but finds the common element between them of just searching for belonging, Frost in the explorers and Mr. Link in the Yeti.
Strangely for a film aimed at a young audience Missing Link actually evokes the spirit of The Lost City of Z in a lot of ways. The central character is obsessed about proving the existence of a mythical place or creature to some kind of exploring society full of rich and snobbish people. Obviously Missing Link doesn’t descend into the same level of dark obsession that The Lost City of Z does, instead bringing a humour and levity to the idea, as well as a touching story about find where you belong. This may be a well worn trope in films these days, but Missing Link is certainly one of the better iterations of it in recent years.
And that is because the central pairing between Frost and Mr. Link, voiced by Hugh Jackman and Zach Galifianakis, make for a wonderful central character dynamic. The odd couple pairing is a great source of comedy, with several great jokes around Mr. Link’s literal interpretation of a number of Frost’s sayings and phrases, and similar kinds of humour. The addition of Zoe Saldana as Adelina Fortnight about halfway through the film further shifts the dynamic, adding someone who will call Frost out when needed, and mixing up that dynamic right when it was needed.
But odd couple pairings and stories about where you belong a well worn ground. Yes Missing Link is certainly one of the better examples of both these tropes from the last few years, it delivers these with great heart and humour, but it is rarely breaking new ground. That certainly isn’t going to ruin Missing Link I just wish there was more to make it stand out and push it to the level of a masterpiece like Kubo and the Two Strings. The one thing that is extraordinary with all of Laika’s films is the animation. The sets they constructed and brought to life for the film are incredible, and it’s great to see that people are still pushing the limits of what can be created in stop-motion animation.