Laika Studios’ Missing Link is visually stimulating and charming, yet at times the content is too mature for this to be altogether a kid-friendly or family movie.
Missing Link, Laika’s fifth stop-motion animated film, takes viewers on a grand adventure where they are enveloped in times past, reminded of the beauty of the Victorian era, and immersed in a time period of great discovery and adventure. Those with a passion and interest in the history of transportation will love this animated film.
Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) is an investigator who believes in the Loch Ness monster and is often ridiculed for his farfetched belief. Yet, this does not sway him away from his never-ending pursuits and adventures. One fateful day, Frost receives a letter hinting at the existence of a Bigfoot living in the wild. It turns out that “Mr. Link” himself (Zach Galifianakis) wrote the letter to Frost with a request for Frost to escort him, a Bigfoot, to find his long-lost cousins, the Yeti in Shangri-La. We later come to learn that this big, 8 -foot tall Bigfoot wants to be called Susan, and his soft, unassuming nature does not match his big, burly appearance.
Frost welcomes the idea of helping the Bigfoot, because quite frankly his ego and reputation would not have it any other way. The thought of discovering the missing link and then connecting Mr. Link with his distant Yeti cousins is too irresistible. However, this undertaking is not without its unexpected twists and turns, to say the least. Their first mission is to steal a map from adventurer Adelina Fortnight.
Adelina Fortnight, a Force to Be Reckoned With
While Adelina (Zoe Saldana) is the widow of very wealthy man, his wealth and her material comfort does not define her. She is a woman who has declared, “It’s time for me to break out of my cage.” When Frost and Mr. Link break into her castle late one night, she does not make it an easy task for them. Just when Mr. Link and Frost think that they are in the clear, she appears with a gun, shouting, “Give me back my husband’s map.” She is not afraid to fight, say what’s on her mind, and advocate for Mr. Link. At one point, she assertively brings to the attention of Frost, “You poke at him with your stick. You treat him like your servant. You put yourself first, and you say that he smells like a wet dog.” She decides that she is bored with her privileged life and joins Frost and Mr. Link on their expedition. Her character brings great vibrancy and color to the trio as well as balance. From the shades of magenta and purple in her Victorian-style dress to her fabulous bun, Adelina is a beautifully animated character. All of the eccentric characters are intriguing to look at for that matter.
Transportation, Archaeology, and Discovery
As the trio journeys on towards Shangri-La, viewers are reminded of the history of transportation. From horse-drawn carriages to steamboats and large ship vessels, adults and children alike get an authentic glimpse of what it was like to travel in the past. Children especially will enjoy seeing the diverse forms of transportation within the film. From a teaching perspective, this film could be used as a form of Arts & Education curriculum discussing the clothing styles of this time period as well as the transportation methods. Those with an interest in maps and archaeology will especially love this movie.
Messages Within the Animated Film
When Frost, Adelina, and Mr. Link finally come face-to-face with the Yeti, Mr. Link experiences heartbreaking rejection. The Queen of the Yeti (Emma Thompson) is a standout. Thompson’s voice work is compelling, creating in this reviewer a desire to see more of her character. As the queen of the Yeti Utopian society, she makes it clear that not all “lost” civilizations want to be found. Often, the historical past that many researchers are looking for is not lost, but rather “hidden.” There is also a sub-narrative of how many want to connect with their native people, tribe, or land, but there just might be a missing link to that connection as well. Mr. Link’s rejection by the Yeti also denotes that arguably the connection you are looking for is not way back in the past, but right here in the present. In the case of Mr. Link, Frost and Adelina may not look like him or have originated from the same species as him, but they are more receptive towards him than his own long-lost Yeti cousins.
While this movie from director Chris Butler is a family film, it’s actually for ages 11 and up. There is some violence in the form of a bar brawl, use of handguns, and at times some sarcastic and forceful language. The animation is very well done, and it’s evident that lots of meticulous detail and expertise went into the creation of the film. At times the narrative is unengaging, but the stimulating visuals and the attention given to the historical context of the time period makeup for this. Preteens, adults, as well as teachers will enjoy this film.