Missing Link

 

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Laika’s latest stop-motion cartoon only really gathers steam in its later stages, so it’s a mixed bag.

   

Missing Link

The real thing?: Sir Lionel and Susan 

 

One of the better things about Missing Link is its titular character, an autistic Sasquatch called Susan. He’s an amiable presence (voiced by Zach Galifianakis) who has taught himself to speak and read English and has taken his name from the first human being who smiled at him. The last of his kind, Susan is a desperately lonely figure and only too pleased to make the acquaintance of Sir Lionel Frost, who has travelled from London to Washington state to prove his existence. Sir Lionel (Hugh Jackman) is also something of one-of-a-kind, having been refused membership of a geographical society interested only in what its members can see and touch.

 

Sir Lionel is much in the tradition of Phileas Fogg, except more accident-prone and self-centred, interested only in furthering his reputation. He is just one of many eccentric, absent-minded Victorian Englishmen portrayed on screen, and is thus something of a caricature.

 

In fact, the first half of Missing Link, a stop-motion odyssey from Laika, the company that brought us Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls and Kubo and the Two Strings, is a mediocre affair. It’s not until Sir Lionel and Susan have reached New York, united with an old flame of Lionel’s (Zoe Saldana), that the film becomes remotely interesting. A perilous Atlantic crossing displays some visual ingenuity, in which our hapless heroes – and heroine – barely escape with their lives, being pursued by a contract killer (Timothy Olyphant) hired to quash evidence of the Sasquatch. Then later, when the intrepid trio reaches the Himalayas to unite Susan with his own kind, the film really gets into its stride. However, it’s unfortunate that these later scenes so resemble the action in the altogether funnier and breezier Smallfoot released last October.

 

Sir Lionel himself is a rather tiresome character, who treats Susan like a flunkey, and leaves a gaping hole at the centre of the film. His come-uppance is a given. There is the occasional eye-catching spectacle, and a handful of jokes beyond the groan-worthy, but also a notable lack of innovation that distinguished Laika’s previous productions. The fact that the closing credits prove to be the film’s crème de la crème is not a good sign.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Voices of  Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana, David Walliams, Stephen Fry, Matt Lucas, Timothy Olyphant, Amrita Acharia, Ching Valdez-Aran, Emma Thompson, Zach Galifianakis.

 

Dir Chris Butler, Pro Travis Knight and Arianne Sutner, Screenplay Chris Butler, Ph Chris Peterson, Pro Des Lou Romano, Ed Stephen Perkins, Music Carter Burwell, Costumes Deborah Cook.

 

Laika/Annapurna Pictures-Lionsgate.

94 mins. USA/Canada. 2019. Rel: 5 April 2019. Cert. PG.