Run Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana, Zach Galifianakis
Writer/Director: Chris Butler
The closest thing to Folk Art you’ll find in the movies is stop-action animation, where hand-made model characters — manipulated frame-by-frame by gifted puppeteers — walk, fly, and fret their way through elaborate, physically crafted sets.
The consensus worldwide leader in the art is British filmmaker Nic Park’s Aardman Studios, whose Wallace and Gromit films have won both hearts and Oscars for decades. But Aardman’s got heady competition in the form of Oregon’s Laika Studios, which has astonished audiences with the delicate artistry of Kubo and the Two Strings, haunted them with the eerie atmosphere of Coraline— and now brings the unqualified delight of Missing Link, a raucous high adventure buddy comedy.
We meet Victorian-era British explorer Sir Lionel Frost (stuffily voiced by Hugh Jackman) as he sets out to capture photo evidence of the Loch Ness Monster. The wondrously thrilling scene cheekily establishes Frost’s relentless ambition, ingenious resourcefulness — and clueless disregard for the well-being of others. Soon he is off on another adventure: Traveling to the Pacific Northwest to find Sasquatch, also known as Bigfoot.
You might think that quest would provide adventure enough for the film, but Frost encounters Bigfoot almost immediately after arriving in Washington State, and before long the pair are engaged in yet another endeavor: Uniting Bigfoot, who is the last of his kind and now goes by the name Mr. Link, with his distant cousins, the Yeti, who populate a hidden city in the Himalaya.
What follows is a boats, trains, and stagecoach odyssey, made more urgent by the threat of a gun-toting hitman hired by a rival explorer to keep Sir Frost from succeeding.
The presence of that gun, which makes more than one appearance, plus some Disneyesque falling deaths toward the end, may argue against bringing young children to see the film. But there are grownup delights aplenty in Missing Link, from its glorious color palate to the refreshingly angular character design (except for that of Mr. Frost’s love interest, voiced by Zoe Saldana, who seems unsettlingly like a throwback to those Rankin/Bass stop-motion TV quickies of the 1960s).
Best of all is the sparkling voice work of Zach Galifianakis, who breathes humor and innocence into Mr. Link. Writer/director Chris Butler paces his story perfectly, allowing Frost and Link plenty of room to develop a sweet if sometimes combative friendship.
In this week's Saturday Evening Post video podcast, Bill revisits the 800-year-old cathedral's supporting role in classic films...plus he reviews the family drama Breakthrough and a re-release of Boris Karloff's 1958 potboiler, Frankenstein 1970.
At the Toronto International Film Festival a few years ago, I asked Bill Murray a tepid question: "Do you ever still watch Ghostbusters?" He had a predictably awesome response.
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