While Laika had done some work on the side including Corpse Bride, they first made a real name for themselves after 2009’s Coraline. Something that borders the creepiness side of the imagination of children, while also allowing us to see the scope of it all. Since then, we’ve made excellent similar films that while being able to be seen by children, are usually more done with an adult approach.
Their most recent film Missing Link isn’t different in that sense. Chris Butler who co-directed Paranorman, and co-wrote Kubo and the Two Strings wrote and directed this film on his own. And with it, he tackled a few different moods and tones for the film. He wanted to give the sense of adventure of Raiders (who he says is the greatest film ever made, and it’s hard to argue with him) while also appreciating the journey that happens in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. And that comes through, just not always in the best ways.
We follow our “hero” Sir Lionel Frost, voiced by Hugh Jackman, is snobby and selfish, which makes it a bit frustrating to have to follow him and his exploits. His whole purpose extends to wanting to be allowed to hang out in a lounge with other men who are expert adventurers but are frankly horrible humans. He receives a letter informing him of a sole sasquatch and then gives these men an ultimatum. If he can come back with proof then he’s allowed to join, and if he can’t, he’ll never attempt again.
Thankfully, the film plays out as you’d expect, even though he does find proof, he tries to be better and does better himself. This is due to his relationship with Adelina Fortnight who is more modern than anybody else in the film and delivers the best line in the film when she leaves. The other genuinely great moment is thanks to the titular character, Mister Link, or as he would like to be referred to, Susan.
At one point, Frost has a conversation with him and realizes how Mister Link doesn’t really have a name for himself, so Frost asks him what he would like to be called. So he tells a story of someone he had run into in the forest and while at first, he was scared and unsure of what was gonna happen considering every other encounter he had experienced thus far had ended with the bystander running and screaming, this time they stood still and just smiled. So he wanted to name himself after that person he met, and her name was Susan. And the film and Lionel let him without questioning any of the gender issues, it’s a name, and it makes Susan smile and that’s enough.
Susan lives by themselves in the woods and was lonely, so he doesn’t know or understand classic idioms or phrases such as “you can say that again” and it’s very reminiscent of Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s both endearing and funny and Zach Galifianakis sells every moment of it.
The film is very enjoyable but borderline uneventful and fairly forgettable, but children hopefully have a good time if they’re able to understand it. The film isn’t about the destination, it’s about the journey. Chris Butler states where we belong isn’t necessarily a place, but it’s the people, and that sentiment is very lovely.