“That creature is one of a kind.”
From start to finish while watching Missing Link, and for the first time thus far during a Laika Productions stop-animated motion picture, I found myself emotionally absent, at times even bored. The technical aspects are all there, and some brief shots (like lounge chairs drifting back and forth on the dock of a ship swimming through harried seas) illustrate skill without adding an ounce of depth to the story. And that’s the problem with Laika’s latest adventure comedy. It’s a bit funny, occasionally even epic, and yet it’s populated by unappealing, make belief characters I never came to care about. Missing Link has a hole in its fence and lacks the means to repair or replace what’s actually missing. And that element is a beating heart.
Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman, delivering an uninspired, unrecognizable, and totally forgettable vocal performance), seeks validation and recognition through frivolous adventure. He’s a selfish, wiry man, determined to prove his name as worthy of inclusion in an explorer’s club led by the Luddite and old fogey leader Lord Piggot-Dunceby (Stephen Fry). Frost promises him to find the long-lost Sasquatch, and should he provide credential proof, is finally promised a place amongst his peers. The Lord doesn’t even have to hide crossed fingers behind his back for us to know that he’s a liar. Luckily Frost stumbles across a letter that leads him directly to Mr. Link (Zach Galifianakis), a literate, literal, lonely fable come to life, and who is likewise hopeful of finding a place with his own kind someday. Their shared journey makes sense, but the script has no decadence, no salt or fat or acid. It’s a beautiful looking plate of “mehhh.”
Their travels lead them to Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana) because she might hold the potential map to Shangri-La. She’s a young, wealthy widower of Lionel’s old colleague, and was his love interest before he lost the friendly battle. The three traverse the trails by carriage and train and by foot, following her incomplete guidance, all while being hunted by Lord Piggot-Dunceby’s hired gun Willard Stenk (Timothy Olyphant). Along the way we witness an impressive bar fight, a seismic shift in culture and atmosphere, and a gravity-defying chase best likened to that of Inception’s famous hotel hallway fight. All of this happens in Missing Link, but I can’t bring myself to fake that I cared about it either.
The life or death final sequence is absolutely ridiculous, to the point that it made me believe more in the plausibility of Mission: Impossible – Fallout‘s incredulous, literal cliff-hanging nature because it’s actually organic. And then the film ends where most logical people will probably assume from the get go, trying to brand itself as a quirky and weird riff of the Sherlock Holmes mythos. I admire Missing Link. I know the movie took years to make and that it is a long labor of love. But I also think that the story is weak, the character design uninviting, and that the movie’s incredible looks compensate for a film where words mistakenly speak louder than actions. A part of me wants to give it a higher rating because I know how much time and talent went into bringing this still object to life. Unfortunately, an even bigger part of me never wants to watch it again. I’m pretty certain I’d fall asleep if I did.
“You’re exactly as I imagined.”
Rating: 2.5 out of 5