'Missing Link' Could Inspire Kids to Explore the World on Their Own Terms
The stop-motion animated feature, which arrives in theaters on April 12, tells the story of an explorer and a Sasquatch who become unlikely pals.
April 8, 2019
From a community of children's toys to a frozen kingdom overseen by a queen ruled by her superpower to the Land of the Dead, family-friendly animated films are most memorable when they immerse us in an entirely new world. In stop-motion animation studio Laika's Missing Link, that world is, actually, the whole world—one that an adventurous explorer named Sir Lionel Frost, voiced by Hugh Jackman, aims to traverse in order to locate creatures that have forever been thought of as mythical. His ultimate goal is to document their existence and earn the respect of the snooty, self-proclaimed "great men" and fellow explorers of the Optimates Club, of which Frost is eager to become a member.
We first meet Frost as he and his partner have landed quite the "catch": the Loch Ness monster. Alas, after a comedy of errors, which include Frost's partner nearly being swallowed to death, the two return to London without proof of their encounter, and Frost's partner tells the ambitious adventurer that he's on his own. It's then that he receives a mysterious letter inviting him to the Pacific Northwest to confirm the existence of a Sasquatch. As it turns out, the invite was sent by none other than the Sasquatch himself, voiced by Zach Galifianakis, who Frost initially calls Mr. Link and later refers to as Susan (the name the Sasquatch chooses for himself in a charming, individuality-celebrating scene). Link's lifelong wish is to get to Shangri-La to meet Yetis, who he feels are his closest relatives, and he's hoping Frost can help him make this dream a reality. Thankfully, Frost is all for making the journey with Link—which seems heartwarming, until you realize that he's mainly in it for himself.
In order to find the Yetis, the two must steal a map from badass adventurer and strong leading lady Adelina Fortnight, voiced by Zoe Saldana. Fortnight happens to be the widow of Frost's late partner and a former flame of Frost's, as well. Initially hell-bent on preventing Frost from obtaining the map, Fortnight eventually gives into her craving for an eye-opening experience, and she joins the odd couple on their trek.
The whole family will enjoy the film's visual appeal (the combo of stop-motion puppetry plus CGI definitely creates a fest for the eyes) and charming performances by Jackman, Galifianakis, and Saldana. Galifianakis, in particular, is sure to win laughs for his portrayal of Link as a sweet, dorky dude who takes everything literally, while kids may be more likely to get a kick out of the movie's physical humor.
It bears noting that it's not an entirely humorous, thrilling, and heartwarming path to Shangri-La, as the protagonists are perpetually chased by a hitman named Willard Stenk, voice by Timothy Olyphant. The head of the Optimates Club and Frost's nemesis, Lord Piggot-Dunceby, voiced by Stephen Fry, is so opposed to Frost coming home with actual proof of mythical creatures that he has ordered his murder. This persistent, dark theme is strung throughout the film, and while the audience thankfully never has to say goodbye to any of the main protagonists, plenty of characters do meet their end along the way without much post-mortem processing. For that reason alone, it's a flick best suited to older kids.
Thankfully, one moral lesson that comes through loud and clear that of compassion. Frost may have initially joined forces with Link and set out for Shangri-La for his own benefit. But by the end of the globe-trotting journey, with the help of Adelina, he possesses a bigger heart and has become someone who has found in Link, a life-long friend. In addition, by celebrating the spirit of exploration, striking out on your own, and relentless curiosity, Missing Link could very well inspire future adventurers to ask daunting questions—and then fearlessly head out into the world to see what they can find.