Do you remember the scene in Planes, Trains and Automobiles when, after spending all night on a flight together and sharing a cab, a room – and bed – with each other, that John Candy’s Del Griffith snaps and fires back at his snooty, uptight roommate Neal Page (Steve Martin)? That’s a great scene, isn’t it? Bringing up such an iconic gem from a long list of such moments in the catalogue of the late, great John Hughes seems like a bit of a curveball when reviewing Missing Link, Laika Studios’ latest stop-motion animation adventure, but the new film has more in common with the classic 1987 than you might first think – and for that, we love it very much indeed.
Bathed in colour and whimsy, Missing Link begins with a trip to the Scottish Highlands where famed monsters and mythical creatures “investigator” supreme Sir Lionel Frost – part English gentleman, part Ace Ventura – is on the hunt for the Loch Ness monster, but needs proof to show to his ever-growing list of doubters back in England. With nothing to show for it, Frost needs a new assignment and fast, and a letter from a fan sparks his interest: proof that Bigfoot and Sasquatch are real and live in the Pacific Northwest – and, indeed, they do. Upon his discovery, he discovers that Mr. Link, said big/tall/scary creature, can talk and wants to find his real home across the other side of the world.
So, where’s the Planes, Trains “link” you were banging on about a few minutes ago we hear you cry? Well, bear with us but in fact it lives deep within the veins of this superbly crafted comedy adventure that owes a lot to the mismatched men who had to get from New York to Chicago on a cold week some three decades ago. Here, we have our own dynamic duo in Frost and Link – worlds apart in terms of culture, surroundings and upbringing, but in some strange cosmic way, both need each other more than know and both will have a profound effect on how they will change themselves going forward, all the while wrestling with each other and their surroundings to get from point A to point B. (There’s also a few little gags that feel very reminiscent of Hughes’s film, but we won’t spoil them here as adults will sure get a kick out of them).
Written and directed by Chris Butler, the man behind 2012’s excellent ParaNorman and scribe of Laika’s last film, Kubo and the Two Strings, he brings a great energy to the film both in front of and behind the camera, filling the screen with real wonder and adventure that, as an outsider looking in, must have taken a hell of a lot of work. With the comedy vibes flowing thick and fast, thanks to Jackman’s stuffy explorer and Zach Galifianakis’ warm, touching turn as Link, you may fear that the other side of things gets neglected but such is Butler’s precise structure that everything is measured beautifully, with some fantastic action set-pieces that hark back to Sherlock Holmes and Indiana Jones to produce a melting pot of sheer joy throughout. Not everything works mind – Stephen Fry’s bad guy is horribly onenote and Zoe Saldana‘s fellow intrepid explorer is left clutching at straws – but as a whole, there’s no Missing Link here.
Scott J.Davis | [rating=4]
Animation, Adventure | USA, 2019 |U | 5th April 2019 (UK) | Lionsgate Films UK | Dir.Chris Butler | Zoe Saldana, Timothy Olyphant, Hugh Jackman, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Thompson