Review by Tomris Laffly
With its fifth and fluffiest film—a jovial but tame comedy on identity and acceptance—the grown-up animation studio Laika dials down its sophistication in favor of accessible Disney-esque conventions. In the spirit of Around the World in Eighty Days (with considerable loving homage paid to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), ParaNorman writer-director Chris Butler’s stop-motion escapade follows the feisty Victorian-era explorer Sir Lionel Frost (voiced by Hugh Jackman), an alienated Londoner obsessed with fabled brutes like the Loch Ness Monster.
To prove his credibility to the frowning skeptics of a posh members-only club, Sir Lionel journeys to the Pacific Northwest in search of a folkloric beast that could shed some light on humankind’s evolution. Enter Zach Galifianakis’s Mr. Link (a.k.a. Susan), a delightfully clumsy Big Bird-meets-Bigfoot creature suffering from a severe case of estrangement. Joined by the fearlessly independent Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana), the adventuresome duo embarks on a quest to locate Mr. Link’s distant relatives in the mythical Himalayan valley of Shangri-La, while Timothy Olyphant’s greedy villain hopes to derail the expedition.
Vibrant in its craftsmanship (Nelson Lowry’s opulent production design spans continents and climates, while Deborah Cook’s globetrotting period costumes deserve a shout), Missing Link doesn’t quite summon heart-swelling emotions. Recurring gags wear thin, and the film’s lip service to progressive values concerning immigration and feminism fizzles before it reaches anything meaningful. Still, this vintage tale of camaraderie flaunts an old-fashioned innocence and some endearing defiance, exemplified by its sweet original song “Do-Dilly-Do (A Friend Like You)”