Stop-motion is a unique and difficult filmmaking technique that takes a truly talented artist to master. Films such as The Nightmare Before Christmas and Chicken Run made stop-motion a well-known phenomenon. Laika is a film studio that was founded in 2005 that focuses on stop-motion animation. They have created modern cinema masterpieces such as Coraline, ParaNorman, and Kubo and the Two Strings. Earlier this year, they released their fifth feature-length film, Missing Link, about a brave explorer who helps guide a Sasquatch on a journey to find his long lost relatives. Does Missing Link stand up to the other modern stop-motion classics created by Laika, or does it need to stay hidden? Let’s take a closer look to find out.
The stop-motion animation seen in Missing Link is a true spectacle. It is the most seamless I have ever seen stop-motion be. The characters move with the fluidity of hand-drawn animation. The level of detail on each character and in every background completely brings the film to life. The movie is a genuine delight just to look at.
Missing Link’s humor is top-notch. It is definitely the funniest movie in Laika’s gradually growing catalog. This is heavily due to Zach Galafanakis’ Mr. Link (or Susan as he later prefers). Galafanakis’ dry wit adds something special to the character that no other on-screen Bigfoot has ever had. The way he plays off of Hugh Jackman’s Sir Lionel Frost is hilarious and makes for the most unique of straight man/funny man routines. Mr. Link’s blatant explanation as to how they obtained nun disguises at one point had me laughing especially hard. The film also offers some fantastic slapstick moments during the action sequences.
Each of the main characters, Lionel Frost, Mr. Link, and Zoe Saldana’s Adelina Fortnight, are extremely well-realized. They are all relatable and very easy to care about. The film makes the audience want to see how the characters go about reaching their individual goals. Much of this is due to the very talented voice acting from each of the performers involved.
Throughout the movie, there is a warm-hearted theme about belonging. This can mean finding out where in life you are meant to be, where in the world you are meant to belong, or what people or family you truly belong with. This is represented by the personal goals of each of the three main characters. This theme of belonging is vital for people of all ages to experience and think about. It is especially important for a younger audience to see since it’s something they will deal with multiple times throughout their lives.
Missing Link is certainly missing something. That something is the originality and creativity seen in Laika’s other films. Don’t get me wrong, Missing Link is a fun adventure film, but it lacks the same whimsy that other Laika movies, and even other kids’ or family movies, typically have. Until this movie, Laika has focused on stories so original and unique that they are essentially modern fairy tales. Missing Link may be good, but it mostly feels like other adventure films that we’ve seen before. It’s not bad, but not new. It doesn’t need to be dark like the other Laika movies, but it should at least be something just as unique. Even without comparing it to other films made by the same company, it does not do much to stand out from other family movies.
There is an original song in Missing Link by Walter Martin titled “Do-Dilly-Do (a Friend Like You).” It’s extraordinarily catchy and it completely captures the film’s upbeat tone. I predict it’ll be nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards. I definitely recommend giving it a listen.
Missing Link completely bombed at the box office, but still received critical acclaim from both critics and audiences. The movie is certainly good, but not many people wanted to go see it. It might say something about what audiences look for in a movie from Laika. It’s interesting to see a good movie fail financially and explore the reasons why. I’m sure it will still be remembered fondly by those who actually get around to seeing it.
Missing Link lacks a sense of whimsy and wonder, but still provides a fun adventure for the family. It’s absolutely hilarious and offers some of the most impressive stop-motion animation ever seen in cinema. Missing Link is definitely missing something important that the past four Laika movies have, but it’s ultimately witty, entertaining, and worth seeing.