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With: Hugh Jackman, Zach Galifianakis, Zoe Saldana, Timothy Olyphant, Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson, David Walliams, Matt Lucas, Amrita Acharia, Ching Valdez-Aran (voices)
Written by: Chris Butler
Directed by: Chris Butler
MPAA Rating: PG for action/peril and some mild rude humor
Running Time: 95
Date: 04/12/2019
IMDB

Missing Link (2019)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Human Kind

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Oregon-based animation company Laika Studios continues to excel with its truly impressive series of stop-motion animated features.

Their fifth, Missing Link, which opens Friday in Bay Area theaters, perhaps does not plumb the depths of profundity that earlier Laika films Coraline and ParaNorman did, but it's a very funny, great-looking, fast-moving, and delightfully likable adventure.

With no shortage of top-notch animated movies on the market today, Laika has cornered the market in at least one aspect. It encourages quieter, more restrained voice performances from its stars.

The previous movie, the exquisite Kubo and the Two Strings, featured surprisingly soft, touching performances from both Matthew McConaughey and Charlize Theron.

Missing Link continues this trend, and because of it, the characters seem more thoughtful, and grow more appealing, as the movie goes on.

Hugh Jackman stars as the voice of Sir Lionel Frost, a self-styled English adventurer and monster hunter who longs to join a prestigious London adventurers club. The club regularly refuses him membership, however, since they don't believe in such myths.

Written and directed by Chris Butler (ParaNorman), Missing Link opens with Frost and his valet rowing onto Loch Ness in the night, seeking proof of the monster therein. Frost plays some bagpipes, the monster surfaces, and scoops the valet into its jaws.

The unflappable Frost muses, "Hm. Carnivore." before diving into the water to save his man. But their photographic proof is destroyed.

He receives a letter about a Sasquatch sighting and, undeterred, makes a deal with the club's Lord Piggot-Dunceby (voiced Stephen Fry) that if he can bring back proof, he can finally join.

Frost finds his Sasquatch (voiced, sweetly, by Zach Galifianakis), who speaks English, and who wrote the letter himself. Rather than capture the beast and return home, Frost actually listens.

The Sasquatch, called "Mr. Link," wants Frost's help to get to a secret spot in the Himalayas, where others like him, Yetis/Abominable Snowmen, live, and where he might fit in.

To get there, Frost must obtain a map from Adelina Fortnight (voiced by Zoe Saldana), the feisty widow of a former colleague, which is easier said than done, since she hates him. She demands to join the adventure as well.

Their way is impeded by a Western-style gunslinger Willard Stenk (Timothy Olyphant), a thug hired by Piggot-Dunceby to kill Frost, and, probably, Mr. Link as well.

Like the other Laika movies, this one is impressively handmade (a small clip during the closing credits shows the behind-the-scenes of one spectacular shot), but does not look handmade. It's polished but still palpable. Its visions of a world ranging from the Wild West to the jungles of India to the snowy Himalayan mountains feel more real than a normal computer-generated movie might.

Yet the movie doesn't go very deep into the storytelling well for its idea. It basically offers kid-movie morals about being true to yourself, being a little less self-involved, and finding your own family of like-minded misfits, rather than trying to fit elsewhere.

Earlier Laika movies ventured a little further, were a little braver, about facing death, but Missing Link is more about going on a ride, a little like an Indiana Jones movie with a little James Bond and some Western gunslinger thrown in.

Regardless, because of its lightness and hope, Missing Link will no doubt be viewed as a minor entry in the studio's catalogue. But it's essential, every now and again, to take a day off from dark things.

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