Laika, the award-winning animation studio based out of Portland, has released its fifth film: “Missing Link.” It is also without a doubt the studio’s fifth success, following in the footsteps of “Coraline,” “ParaNorman,” “The Boxtrolls” and “Kubo and the Two Strings.”
Once again implemented with stunning perfection is their signature stop-motion style, executed with such vibrancy and masterful care that “Missing Link” is just as fun to watch for the fantastic animation as for any of its other qualities. The sense of scale is particularly impressive at points, as the world-spanning adventure tale offers a bunch of opportunities for the animators to really show off what incredible environments and set pieces they can create.
The movie also has top-notch voice talent, a story with heart, and a few genuinely good laughs.
The great Hugh Jackman voices Sir Lionel Frost, an enthusiastic but somewhat arrogant British adventurer who seeks recognition from an upper-crust club of his peers who reject his ideas and his quests for mythical monsters. When Lionel is contacted by the kind and lonely Mr. Link, a Sasquatch (wonderfully voiced by Zach Galifianakis) hiding out in Washington state, a classic globe-trotting adventure begins — along with a wonderful tale about self-discovery.
The movie is also an ode to Indiana Jones, Allan Quatermain, Doc Savage, Jonny Quest and any other globe-trotting adventurer you can name. A few slightly more grown-up jokes will go right over children’s heads, but overall it’s still a family-geared film, with a script and light humor that will get some laughs out of any age.
While the scale, visuals and quality of the stop-motion figures are just as good as or better than those in the other Laika productions, it does seem a little bit like the filmmakers played it safe with this one. “ParaNorman,” “Kubo” and “Coraline” in particular have several dark aspects that add a good bit of conflict or depth to their narratives; “Link” does not.
This is a pretty light and fun movie through and through, suitable for any family movie night. Aside for maybe a character or two who meet a not-so-undeserved outcome, there’s not much in “Missing Link” that would trigger tension or any kind of existential thought — or even anything close to the bittersweet emotion “Kubo” inspired. Even despite a few bits of implied adult humor, Laika’s latest film seems particularly kid-friendly.
This isn’t so much a complaint as it is a noticeable deviation from the studio’s norm. Avid and grown-up fans of Laika might be disappointed that “Missing Link” isn’t the deeply emotional roller-coaster they are used to. For example, don’t expect anything nearly as dark as Aggie’s backstory in “ParaNorman.”
But it’s a great popcorn movie for families, and it does take the necessary pause to examine Mr. Link’s loneliness, which does capture the viewers’ adoration and sympathy for the goofy and lovable creature. It’s far more effective on this point than the pathetic remake of “Dumbo,” and that movie was supposed to be sad.
“Missing Link” is a bundle of fun, another great addition to the Laika library, and is worth a matinee ticket at the least. I also stress that any chance to see a good stop-motion animated film on the big screen is an opportunity worth taking. This nearly lost art of filmmaking and animation is a beautiful astyle that should make a comeback with Laika leading the charge.
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“Missing Link” is currently playing at the Riverside Cinemas, 1017 S. Boone St. in Aberdeen.
George Haerle holds a bachelor’s degree in creative writing for media and lives in Cosmopolis.