Laika Studio’s newest stop-motion feature, Missing Link, is a charming, funny and vibrant, adventure boasting outstanding voice performances and a stunning visual style. The film is a tonal change of pace compared to past films from the studio, including personal favourites such as Coraline (2009) and The Corpse Bride (2005). Whilst it definitely isn’t a life-changing or overly memorable film, its relaxed fun atmosphere makes for a light and enjoyable watch.
The film follows the adventures of Sir Lionel Frost, a self-proclaimed adventurer who is interested in proving the existence of mythological creatures. To both impress and join the Royal Adventurer’s Society, he vows to find proof of the fabled Sasquatch: the ‘missing link’ in human evolution. Cue the discovery of Mr Link, who will later announce that he prefers the name Susan. The tall, clumsy, and lovable Sasquatch enlists the help of Sir Lionel in travelling across the globe to find his distant cousins, the Yeti.
The first thing that struck me about this film was how stunning the character and environment designs were. It’s always been one of the main reasons I’m drawn to films made by Laika Studios. No two characters were the same in body type or facial feature, and the smooth, dynamic animation made for the perfect line between cartoony and alive. The distinctive facial features of the main characters allowed for just the right amount of exaggerated expression for comedic purposes, whilst still hitting home in the more heartfelt and emotional scenes. All the small details, from the texture on Susan’s thick fur, to the way the light trickled through the tops of Sir Lionel’s ears, made for a film that was simply beautiful.
This attention to detail was not lost on the background environments either. They were treated with as much care as the appearance of the characters. Each scene is in a new, vibrant, colourful and immersive place. Though the animation was three dimensional, there were many times when the background looked quite artistic.
With all of this in mind, it is important to remember that Missing Link is a film targeted towards kids. I was disappointed with the limited emotional journey of the characters. Priority was placed less on building up to the overarching messages of self-acceptance, kindness, and finding where you belong; and more on humour and spectacle.
Ultimately, the script’s inconsistencies subtracted from my overall enjoyment.
I grew tired of Sir Lionel’s repeated selfishness—landing them in more and more trouble—and the repeated ‘fish out of water’ jokes about Susan, but I tried to keep in mind that to a younger audience those could be engaging aspects. To me however, it simply did not create the type of tension and comedic effect that was intended. And by the end of the film, I could not help but feel dissatisfied with the sudden and convenient conclusion.
With that said, if you are looking for a casual watch, Missing Link is a solid go-to. Whilst the plot could be bolstered, its visual aspects are a marvel to behold. This film is an especially great pick for any little ones in your life, so why not bring them along too.
Missing Link is out in cinemas now!