Missing Link

Year: 2019
Studio: Laika/Annapurna Pictures
Director: Chris Butler
Producer: Chris Butler
Writer: Hugh Jackman, Zach Galifianakis, Zoe Saldana, Timothy Olyphant, Stephen Fry, Matt Lucas, David Walliams, Emma Thompson

There are two elements to any Laika film, the story and the visual style, and when it comes to the latter you've seen everything here done by the claymation maestros done better. Aside from some momentarily interesting character designs nothing about the visuals particularly lift the script or plot off the page, and it could have been told with any visual language, from traditional Pixar- or Illumination-style CGI to live action with motion captured characters.

Which means all there is left to impress is the story, and while it's coherent and has some appreciable gags, it's little better than an average Disney film with its themes of acceptance and finding that where you belong is somewhere different from where you thought.

Blowhard 19th century explorer Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) desperately wants membership into a club of stuffy learned men who've captured and presented some of the wildest beasts and tall tales to the world, and all he needs is proof of a great discovery. After harnessing, losing and failing to photograph the Loch Ness monster with his hapless manservant in the opening, he knows he needs something bigger.

It comes in the form of a letter from America, inviting him to come and find the Sasquatch, the huge, hairy beast of legend. Frost crosses the sea and land and duly shows up to find the beast (Zach Galifianakis) not only able to speak but a shy, bumbling, friendly gentleman. He's the last of his kind but has heard about others of his species across the world in a place called the Himalayas, and he's summoned Frost so he can take Link (as the pair agree to call him, later changed to 'Susan') to be with his people.

But the crusty and fearsome leader of the snivelling old snobs club (Stephen Fry) wants to ensure Frost's failure in his quest to bring back proof of the creature, dispatching hired gun Stenk (Timothy Olyphant) to hunt them down.

When Frost and Link team up with Frost's firebrand former lover, Adelina (Zoe Saldana), their adventure takes them all the way to the snowy peaks of Nepal where they find a shadowy, hidden world that might not be everything Mr Link hoped for. Expectations and plans are subverted at every turn in the service of delivering the movie's morals about friendship and family being where you find them.

It's the first big Laika film not directed by Travis Knight, who was off doing Bumblebee, and to be honest it shows. There's no real magic, a fairly plodding story we've seen before and a few distracting gags to keep parents happy. While I didn't think it was a smash hit, I was surprised but how hard it flopped, not even making back a quarter of its production budget.

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