MISSING LINK, the latest from the animation masterminds at LAIKA Studios, centers around an adventurer named Sir Lionel Frost and his quest to help connect Mr. Link with his long-lost relatives located in the supposed. mythical valley of Shangri-La. The film, written and directed by Chris Butler (ParaNorman), stars voice performances from Hugh Jackman (The Greatest Showman), Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover), Zoe Saldana (Guardians of the Galaxy), Timothy Olyphant (Santa Clarita Diet), and Emma Thompson (Beauty and the Beast).
Meet Mr. Link: 8 feet tall, 630 lbs, and covered in fur, but don’t let his appearance fool you… he is funny, sweet, and adorably literal, making him the world’s most lovable legend at the heart of MISSING LINK, the globe-trotting family adventure from LAIKA. Tired of living a solitary life in the Pacific Northwest, Mr. Link recruits fearless explorer Sir Lionel Frost to guide him on a journey to find his long-lost relatives in the fabled valley of Shangri-La. Along with adventurer Adelina Fortnight, our fearless trio of explorers encounter more than their fair share of peril as they travel to the far reaches of the world to help their new friend. Through it all, the three learn that sometimes you can find a family in the places you least expect.
LAIKA Studios has always been, to me, the pinnacle of artistry. Whether it’s showcasing horror in a digestible way through films like Coraline and ParaNorman or pulling at our heartstrings and destroying my every fiber in films like Kubo and the Two Strings, LAIKA ceases to amaze in terms of quality, heart, and spookiness. This brings us to their newest film, MISSING LINK, which even though it doesn’t have the creepy element most of us have come to love, it still is a tremendous study on the incredible artistry that these designers and animators possess. I say this not just in the execution of the movie but in their ability to bring a softness to these characters making it easy to relate to them in ways that not many animated films are able to do.
It’s best if I just rip the bandaid off by saying that MISSING LINK was probably my least favorite of the LAIKA films HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. I’m someone who appreciates the darker sides of things which is why films such as ParaNorman are attractive to me. In the case of MISSING LINK, writer/director Chris Butler (who also directed ParaNorman and has had a hand in almost ever LAIKA film) does away with the darker tones and instead brings us a beautifully illustrated film centering on the legendary Pacific Northwest Bigfoot and the importance of friendship. And it’s here in which the film truly shines. Butler is able to craft a story that is relevant to the time period at hand as well as society today, while also making it easy to enjoy. Furthermore, the film is fun, allowing both children and adults the chance to really enjoy the unfolding narrative.
Most impressive is the animation used. During the set visit, Butler talked about how this was the most challenging of all the films due to the animation style they went with. Even when comparing it to LAIKA’s earlier films, you can see a noticeable difference in the finished product making these characters look slightly life-like in their uniquely shaped appearance. Speaking of the characters, you’ll be hardpressed not to fall in love with Mr. Link aka Susan. He’s 100% pure and it’ll take everything in you not to want to snuggle him and his innocence. Voicing Mr. Link is the hilarious Zach Galifianakis who does such a great job that I didn’t even pick up on it being him at first. Then there is Sir Lionel Frost, the man’s man of adventurers played perfectly by Hugh Jackman. It’s easy to despise him, his narcissism and his self-indulgent exploitive nature but once given the opportunity to really dig deeper into him as a person, you realize he’s not as awful as he appears. However, other than Link, the true shining star is that of Adelina Fortnight, voiced by Zoe Saldana. Her character is one that takes no shit from anyone and is a constant reminder that animated films don’t have to always have a damsel in distress. Women are fully capable of handling adventures on their own without the use of a man by their side. And we can’t forget the villain, there always needs to be a villain, and what better person for the job than Timothy Olyphant? As usual, he doesn’t disappoint in his portrayal of the oily gunslinger, Stenk, sent to destroy Frost, Link, and anyone who gets in the way of his bounty.
In all, I think fans of LAIKA, as well as movie-goers in general, will really love what MISSING LINK has to offer. It’s perfect family viewing while also making sure to cater to adults and children separately. The characters are easy to fall in love with and the visuals will leave you breathless. Though I miss the creepier side of LAIKA films, I can appreciate all the hard work that went into bringing MISSING LINK to life and I’m forever grateful for having had the opportunity to take a peek into how it was made. If you are a fan of adventure movies and/or love anything that has to do with myths and legends without all the unneeded conspiracy theories than make sure to check out MISSING LINK when it’s released in theaters this Friday, April 12th.