Before I go into this review, I want to gush for a second over the film Kubo and the Two Strings, which snagged my #1 Film of 2016 distinction (so, obviously I was a fan). Laika, the company that creates these films, is based outside of Portland, so I have some hometown loyalty as well. Let’s see if this newest film can meet those high standards!
Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) is obsessed with finding and documenting rare creatures. In the opening sequence, he’s tracked down the Loch Ness monster and is trying to snag a photo of it. When he receives a cryptic letter beckoning him to the Pacific Northwest of America, he follows the leads and encounters a Sasquatch initially called Mr. Link (Zach Galifianakis) that yearns to unite with his cousins in the Himalayas (the Yeti). To get there, Frost must confront an old flame (Zoe Saldana) and outmaneuver a killer of monsters (Timothy Olyphant) who seeks to erase Mr. Link from existence.
Our voice cast here is pretty incredible. Jackman and Galifianakis get the most to do and their chemistry is totally believable. Galifianakis also delivers one of his sweetest and most sincere performances, maybe ever. He makes this huge Sasquatch feel real and authentic, making us root for this creature that we’ve only just met. He does an incredible job here.
I also want to shout out Timothy Olyphant, who voices a hunter who tracks our heroes throughout the film. I’ve been watching Olyphant most recently in Santa Clarita Diet so I would’ve thought that his voice would stand out, but he does some great character work here and is totally unrecognizable, which I always appreciate.
The real star of this movie however is the way the movie is made. Check out the video right above here, but these movies are crafted in such a way that seem impossible. It appears like these characters were created in a computer somewhere, not molded and placed physically on a real set. It’s a tremendous amount of work and I wish a snippet played before the feature film that showcased how this was created (by the time the credits roll and you see some behind the scenes, it’s almost too late). If you’re at all curious, watch that video above and prepare to have your minds blown.
What doesn’t work?
It’s hard to not compare this film to Kubo, which is now the gold standard for this type of work. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite reach those heights. While there are more locations featured here, as they literally travel the world, I didn’t have the same “wow” moments that I got in Kubo. Yes, it looks like a wild wild west Santa Ana. Yes, that snow looks semi-real as they hike through the Himalayas. But it’s not jaw-dropping. Even the story itself feels smaller and simpler, a basic journey from one place to another. Our characters exchange dialogue but there’s not a lot of growth or development, although the movie tries to make you think that there is in the final act.
This movie also feels a little bit more juvenile, aimed at kids as opposed to all ages. There’s a lot of pratfalls and physical gags that made all the kids in my theater roar, but it’s a little done-to-death for adults.
Missing Link is a great time, with both Jackman and (especially) Galifianakis delivering great performances. The highlight though is sitting back and watching the majesty of this movie, realizing they shot everything one frame at a time with physical models. It’s incredible. Unfortunately, it feels a little less impressive than the prior Kubo and the Two Strings and aims itself at a younger audience, resulting in a different experience than I was hoping for. Still a great time, if this looks like your cup of tea.