Missing Link had a lot to live up to. Laika was almost perfect in its catalog of animated films, with the fantastic Coraline, surprising ParaNorman and brilliant Kubo and the Two Strings — the later of which was one of the greatest animated movies of the last decade.
However, Missing Link fell short of the mark that the company had set for itself. That isn’t to say the movie was bad, but it was just disappointingly average.
While the Missing Link was the title character, the actual lead in the movie is explorer Sit Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman), a man constantly trying to discover mysterious mythical creatures so that he can finally gain acceptance into an organization of explorers that are mostly just snooty old men.
Why he wants to be part remains puzzling and that actually plays into the story.
After his last assistant was almost eaten by the Lockness Monster and quits, Sir Lionel Frost receives a letter revealing the mythical Missing Link, a Big Foot-styled creature lives in the Pacific Northwest. As Sir Lionel lives in London, he sets out for America and finds the Link.
It just so happens that Mr. Link (Zach Galifianakis) sent the letter himself and taught himself English by hiding and listening to people. He then convinces Sir Lionel to take him to the mythical Shangri-La to try to find his possible relatives — the Yeti. They end up teaming with another adventurer named Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana) who had a complicated history with Sir Lionel and set off to reunite Link (who eventually names himself Susan) with his family.
So, what is this movie about? It is about finding who you really are and learning about the sense of family. Missing Link paints Sir Lionel as a selfish self-centered explorer. However, he comes across and completely likable and it really seems a little harsh when accused of selfishness.
There is also a bad guy in the movie in Lord Piggot-Dunceby (Stephen Fry), who will do anything to keep Sir Lionel out of their exclusive group of explorers. He comes across as a not so subtle jab at current people in power who refuse to accept progress.
There is also a sad twist when they finally reach Shangri-La that makes the existence of Susan even more depressing. With that said, the movie ties itself up with a nice bow on top at the end. Even Adelina, who is an afterthought for most of the movie, gets a satisfying end.
The problem isn’t the voice cast, which was universally great. It also wasn’t the positive message of the movie — believing in yourself and understanding you don’t need others to define your self-worth. It is just the fact that everything seemed so bland and average. Nothing really surprised and nothing seemed to rise to the level of Laika’s p
It might not be fair to judge Missing Link for not matching up to the level of Kubo or ParaNorman. However, that is the bar that Laika has set for itself. Missing Link came across as just too ordinary and average to become a memorable part of their cinematic output.