Some movies just need to be fun. Dull the senses, take the mind on a train ride, and allow the euphoric effect of make believe to build a home in your head for two hours.
You don’t need to be blown away or shown how to rediscover the magic of film every time you enter a theater. Chris Butler’s new animated film, Missing Link, takes your mind off the hassles of everyday life and tells a sweet tale with a light and energetic touch. One that an adult can enjoy just as much as their kids.
Sir Lionel Frost (voiced by Hugh Jackman) wants to be remembered for one thing: finding the most unique and creative-looking monsters that the world hasn’t just failed to see but couldn’t even imagine existing. Known as the “monster chaser,” Frost is laughed at by his superiors (Stephen Fry, Matt Lucas), because according to these people, he’s a crazy and hopeless wanderer who believes.
When Frost receives a letter from Mr. Link (Zach Galifianakas), who claims to be the bigfoot he’s been looking for, Frost sees a chance to prove himself while helping someone find their home.
What follows is a breezy, easy to please, and entertaining road adventure. Frost and Link on the run from the likes of the deadly Stenk (Timothy Olyphant, Justified/Deadwood) while finding themselves thrown together with Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana, Guardians of the Galaxy), who holds the key to their search.
The voice work is seamless and confident. Jackman adds a dramatic flair and earnestness to Frost that helps you root for him even when he doesn’t deserve it. Galifianakas makes you fall in love with Link’s desire to find his true family rather instantly. The two actors form a believable bond right away, and that helps the rest of the cast settle in and do their jobs well. Voice work in animated films shouldn’t be taken for granted; when phoned in or delivered bland, it can hurt the film’s overall effect.
Missing Link marks Butler’s second directorial feature, his first since 2012’s ParaNorman, but he got audiences’ attention with 2009’s Coraline and 2016’s Kubo and The Two Strings (which was directed by Bumblebee auteur, Travis Knight). What I liked about Butler’s style in the first film connects to his latest feature, which is the ability to transcend how animation looks and the feeling it can produce. It’s stylistic and audacious without asking for your satisfaction.
There’s the new school and old school blending together to make something that looks fresh. The action sequences, namely a bar fight, is very well done and invigorating. How it’s shot is impressive. The end credits sequence shows you a few tricks up the filmmaker’s sleeves.
Here’s the thing. I went in expecting nothing and didn’t watch the preview, so the film hit me fresh and it worked out that way. Sometimes, knowing little can end up providing a larger payoff. This is an easy to love and feel good 95 minutes in a movie theater.
The morals and lessons are easy to digest for adults, and important for kids. Finding out the difference between ambition and compassion. Knowing that home is wherever you need it to be, and not where some map tells you to stay. How the power of friends can make the harshest parts of life seem a little brighter.
By focusing on a unique look and providing just enough story, Butler and company produce a superficial yet enjoyable cinematic experience.
Missing Link is the first truly solid animated film of 2019. I left satisfied and wanting to spend more time with Frost, Link, and Fortnight. You should go see it. Don’t expect the world; just go in ready to see something you probably didn’t even know existed in a movie theater: a fun time.