“MISSING LINK” — 3 stars — Voices of Hugh Jackman, Zach Galifianakis, Zoe Saldana, Emma Thompson; PG (action/peril and some mild rude humor); in general release; running time: 95 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — It's hard to be Bigfoot. That's just one of the many messages — some less subtle than others — that the new stop-motion film “Missing Link” has for its audiences, both young and old.
This entertaining, thoughtful movie about a lonely Bigfoot is one of the better looking animated films out right now, and while it probably won't make the top of your all-time animation list, “Missing Link” still makes a good case for stop-motion animation.
Coming from the same studio that produced stop-motion gems like 2014’s “The Boxtrolls” and 2016’s “Kubo and the Two Strings,” Chris Butler's “Missing Link” opens over a century ago, as the intrepid British explorer Sir Lionel Frost (voiced by Hugh Jackman) hunts for the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland. Frost’s reputation for chasing mythic monsters has generated a bit of attention in the pre-internet age, but he’s never quite able to produce any genuine evidence for his skeptics.
Upon returning to England, Frost discovers an invitation to travel to the United States in search of the legendary Bigfoot, aka Sasquatch. Frost believes proof of Bigfoot will prove the theory of evolution, and perhaps more importantly, finally grant him access to the elite social club he so covets. But the club president, Lord Piggot-Dunceby (Stephen Fry), resents Frost and his theories and sends a man of his own named Stenk (Timothy Olyphant) to foil the Sasquatch search.
To Frost’s surprise, once he arrives in the Pacific Northwest, not only does he quickly find the Sasquatch, but he discovers that it was the mythic beast who wrote his letter of invitation. Mr. Link (Zach Galifianakis), as Frost dubs him — as a nod to the “missing link” — is eight feet tall and more than 600 pounds, but he also writes and speaks English fluently.
Mr. Link is also very lonely, and believes Frost can help him find a community of close cousins — the Yeti — in a remote area of the Himalayas called Shangri-La. The two quickly strike a deal: As long as Mr. Link gives Frost evidence of his existence, the explorer will help him find Shangri-La. But naturally, Piggot-Dunceby and Stenk have other plans.
Most of “Missing Link” follows the odd couple’s world-hopping journey to Asia, which features a dangerous sea voyage and the addition of a third teammate in Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana), Frost’s former love interest. The adventure showcases the imaginative, dynamic animation that has given Laika Studio's previous efforts such a magical quality, and “Missing Link” delivers repeatedly.
Frost and Mr. Link may be chasing their passions in a different age, but “Missing Link” explores a theme of acceptance even more relevant for a day and age when people clamor for attention from countless groups — real or virtual. At the same time, Butler’s film makes enough of a repeated point about the evolutionary significance of Mr. Link’s existence that it can feel off-putting at times.1 comment on this story
On the spectrum of Laika productions, “Missing Link” is more mainstream than the likes of “Boxtrolls” or “Kubo,” and is reminiscent of the “Wallace and Gromit” series in its better moments. It falls short of the immersive style of those other films — “Kubo” in particular — but for animation fans, “Missing Link” is still another great example of how it’s really hard to beat a stop-motion production.
Rating explained: “Missing Link” is rated PG for some comic violence and irreverent humor.