‘Missing Link’ Is a Charming Animated Adventure

LAIKA, the studio behind “Coraline” and “ParaNorman,” humanizes none other than Bigfoot himself in their latest stop-motion animated feature, “Missing Link.”  Zach Galifianakis voices the hairy creature, while Hugh Jackman brings to life a pompous rich guy with something to prove, Sir Lionel Frost. The Victorian adventurer and Bigfoot, who comes to be known as Mr. Link, and later on Susan, become an unlikely pair of allies in this film that tackles colonialism and otherness.

Lionel isn’t the most likable character, in the beginning at least, as he is first introduced almost getting his valet devoured by a carnivorous sea monster. Soon after, he receives a letter informing him of the existence of Bigfoot in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. He is thrilled, as this is is opportunity to prove the link between primates and humans, finally proving himself to the Optimates Club, a pro-colonialism organization. As annoying as Lionel is, Optimates Club president Lord Piggot-Dunceb (Stephen Fry) is downright odious, as he’s a so reactionary that he takes issue with women’s suffrage, the theory of evolution, and even electricity. Lionel and Piggot-Dunceb make a bet as to whether the former can confirm the existence of Bigfoot, and the devious older man sends a ruthless hired gun, Stenk (Timothy Olyphant), to trail Lionel, upping the stakes and the danger factor.

The beginning of “Missing Link” is a tad dialogue-heavy, especially considering that its target audience is children. However, the film picks up speed with the introduction of Mr. Link, a creature who is charming, lovable, and, to Lionel’s surprise, highly intelligent. Mr. Link just wants what everyone else wants, which is to belong and feel connected, something he can’t find living alone in the woods. Lionel agrees to help him get to his distance relatives, the yentis, in the Himalayas, but he has ulterior motives, of course, as he hopes to uncover the mysterious Shangri-La and receive all the glory that comes along with such an accomplishment. First, he needs a map belonging to a former partner. The only problem is, the man is dead and his widow, the no-nonsense Adelina (Zoe Saldana), isn’t too keen on giving it up, especially to Lionel, who also happens to be her ex. She ends up coming along with him and Mr. Link, and the story really kicks into gear upon their arrival in the Himalayas. There, they are confronted by the yeti leader known as The Elder (Emma Thompson), whose distrust of outsiders has lead her to wall off her territory (yup, timely). But don’t worry, she doesn’t want to kill the intruders; she just wants to send them to the Pit of Misery and Perpetual Disappointment.

“Missing Link” is visually stunning, full of details and vibrant animated landscapes. Mr. Link, the heart of the film, is particularly adorable, with his reddish fur, or rust, as he calls it. The film also has its fill of fun, slapstick moments, as the animators take full advantage of the medium to put the characters in zany and often adrenaline-fueled situations.

Missing Link” opens April 12 nationwide.