Released: 11th April
Seen: 13th April
Stop Motion animation is probably the most difficult kind of animation there is. Building scale models and animating them in the physical world, moving just a tiny portion of the models for every single frame and slowly creating movement by hand, something where a small accident could ruin days of work. If a model dries up then that could destroy a film. For the longest time the big name in the field of stop motion animation was Aardman Animation, the people who made Chicken Run (which I just found out is getting a sequel, which is awesome), and now the new people claiming the throne of stop motion animation is Laika who has been fairly consistent in releasing great films, and their latest film is no exception.
Missing Link follows Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman), a man who investigates mythical creatures like the Loch Ness Monster. He is desperate to join a secret society of monster hunters, ran by the Lord Piggot-Dunceby (Stephen Fry) who has always hated Lionel and doesn’t want him to be part of the secret society. One day, Lionel receives a mysterious letter telling him about the location of the last bigfoot on earth. Once he gets there, he finds that the letter came from the last bigfoot himself, who is temporarily named Mr Link (Zach Galifianakis) and they ask Lionel to help them find the Yeti’s in the Himalayas, since the Yeti might be the last remaining relative to the bigfoot. And so begins an adventure with Sir Lionel and Mr Link to go find the Yeti, on the way stopping to pick up Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana) to help them get the last Yeti back home, no matter who might try to stop them.
From the moment the film starts it’s pure joy. The visual aesthetic is absolutely gorgeous, every single shot is full of life and there’s some of the most beautiful animation that sells every joke perfectly. Something about the way that stop motion designs look is just charming and this movie is chock full of charm. The animation is perfect and elaborate, something the filmmakers show off during the credits when they show a sped up version of how they animated a simple walking shot. Every single moment of the film contains either a great verbal or visual joke that will either pull out a laugh or just throw a little smile on your face. It feels almost effortless just how easily the film manages to get to that sweet spot and make the audience smile with glee over the very silly thing that’s just been thrown in front of us.
The story structure is so tight and well planned that it is basically just to create a framework for these great characters to grab onto. Sure, it was easy to get invested in Mr Link’s desire to find the lost Yeti tribe but I was far more interested in if he was going to get through to Lionel and become his friend. I was certainly more interested in Adelina, who just constantly calls out the boys club BS that Lionel just exudes from every single pore of his being. The structure of “Let’s find this giant creature his family” allows us more time with these great characters and some truly progressive themes like gender expectations (including the reveal of what Mr Link would prefer to be called, which is hilarious and touching all at the same time). It’s got a lot of fun detail working around the simple story structure.
It’s really hard to think of ways to talk about this film without spoiling some of its funnier jokes so let’s just say that Missing Link is a big bowl of happiness that will put a smile on your face with the simple sweetness that it can’t help but exude. It’s certainly not a heavy film by any means and doesn’t have much to say that other family films haven’t done before, but it’s just so damn charming that it easily won me over before they even finished the first scene. The definition of a great family film, tell the kids that you’re taking them because they’ll like it but in reality, just go because you deserve an hour and a half of pure joy.