(2019) (voices of Hugh Jackman, Zach Galifianakis) (PG)
- QUICK TAKE:
- Animated Comedy/Adventure: A late 19th century explorer agrees to help Sasquatch find more of his kind in the Himalayas.
- It's the 1880s and Sir Lionel Frost (voice of HUGH JACKMAN) is an English explorer who's perpetually searching for mythical beasts, such as the Loch Ness Monster. He desires to earn admittance into Lord Piggot-Dunceby's (voice of STEPHEN FRY) high society Optimates Club of big game hunters, but all of them look down on him. Accordingly, when he receives a letter that the legendary Sasquatch has been sighted in Washington State, he travels there and finds the creature with a bet that if he does, Lord Piggot-Dunceby will allow him entry into his club.
It doesn't take Lionel long to find Mr. Link (voice of ZACH GALIFIANAKIS) who's revealed to be anything but a beast. While he has the appearance of a cross between a human and a huge hairy ape, he's polite, reserved and can speak, although he takes most everything Lionel says literally, including figures of speech.
But what Mr. Link most wants is for Lionel to take him to the Himalayas so that he can overcome his loneliness by being among the Yeti there. Knowing that a former fellow explorer had maps of that part of the world, Lionel takes Mr. Link to see that man's widow, Adelina Fortnight (voice of ZOE SALDANA), but she's initially reluctant to help, what with the two of them having had a relationship in the past. She eventually changes her mind but only on the condition that she come along for the expedition.
Having learned of Lionel's discovery and not wanting to lose the bet and have to admit him to his club, Lord Piggot-Dunceby hires hitman Willard Stenk (voice of TIMOTHY OLYPHANT) to locate Lionel and his find and kill both of them. Stenk repeatedly tries to do just that, but the unlikely trio manage to avoid him and continue their travels toward the Himalayas where they eventually meet the Yeti Ruler (voice of EMMA THOMPSON).
- OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
- Making a movie is nothing short of a labor of love for all involved. After all, while a few exceptions exist, most films take years to make from trying to arrange financing to casting, shooting the film, all of the post-production work and then all things publicity and release related.
And that's as related to shooting a movie in "real time" or 24 frames per second. For those who still make stop-motion animation style movies, they're shooting theirs at one frame per second after painstakingly moving their characters just fractions of an inch -- along with any camera movement -- and then snapping a shot, followed by another such minuscule move and then another shot and so on.
Of course, in the old days of filmmakers like Willis O'Brien, that was the only way to get fantastic creatures into their films -- short of putting an actor in a rubber suit or gluing "add-ons" to lizards to make them prehistoric -- but occasionally the results were fantastic, as was the case with the original "King Kong."
Now, eighty-six years later, the folks at Laika are continuing that tradition by following up the likes of "Coraline," "ParaNorman," "The Boxtrolls" and "Kubo and the Two Strings" with their latest such stop-motion offering, "Missing Link." Perhaps inspired in some small (or possibly large) way by "Kong," the story revolves around a late 19th-century global explorer, Sir Lionel Frost (voiced by Hugh Jackman), who specializes in finding and then presenting proof of mythical creatures.
As the opening sequence shows, he's not bothered by any setback, such as when Nessie, a.k.a. The Loch Ness Monster, appears to have swallowed his assistant whole while trying to get a photo of the beast and then dives back into the depths of that loch. Holding onto a rope around the monster's neck, he rides it above and below the surface like Aquaman before rescuing his hapless and soon-to-quit helper. But the photo is lost and it's back to the drawing board --or in this case, mailbox -- for his latest adventure.
And that's finding Sasquatch in the American West, and as luck would have it, he receives a letter indicating Bigfoot has been spotted there. It doesn't take long for him to find the towering ape-man, but rather than do the "Kong" bit of taking him back to the big city for show, he opts to help the amiable but lonely Mr. Link (Zach Galifianakis) be with the rest of his kind in Shangri-La located in the Himalayas.
That doesn't sit well with Lord Piggot-Dunceby (Stephen Fry) who previously made a bet with Lionel that he couldn't find the legendary beast. Thus, the pompous elitist enlists a hired gun, Stenk (Timothy Olyphant), to kill the both of them, unaware that the strong-willed widow of another explorer, Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana), will also be with them.
As written and directed by Chris Butler, the film -- like its predecessors -- is gorgeous to behold, features solid vocal work from all involved, and nicely mixes humor into its action and more progressive mindset (that not only includes going against the grain in regard to how such explorers of old would act, but also allowing the ape-man to choose "Susan" as his name going forward).
That said, this feels a bit like a slighter offering from the animation studio in regard to the premise and the story that flows from that. I do believe, however, that that's the intent of all involved -- to deliver 95 or so minutes of entertaining and enjoyable escapism, all through what's obviously a labor of love not only for the end product, but also the process to get to that. Not as remarkable as its immediate predecessor but still fun to watch, "Missing Link" rates as a 6 out of 10.
Reviewed April 2, 2019 / Posted April 12, 2019
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