The Dallas Morning News

‘Missing Link’ is missing something

Visually stunning Bigfoot tale has a few rough spots

- By JANE HORWITZ

Men, women and not-somythical beasts have world-spanning adventures in the ingeniousl­y wrought and intermitte­ntly enthrallin­g Missing Link.

Although it breaks new ground visually, elements of the tale don’t always meld with grace. The film is a rich-looking blend of stop-motion animation, enhanced with computerge­nerated effects and 3-D printing techniques (keep an eye on the characters’ smooth yet expressive faces). Yet these are all at the service of a perhaps over-intellectu­alized, emotionall­y wanting plot, humor that doesn’t always land, and a toofrequen­t and too-dark undercurre­nt of threatened violence.

Chris Butler wrote and directed Missing Link and also designed the characters. His first film as writer and co-director was Laika’s Paranorman, about a boy who felt like an outcast and saw ghosts. Here he creates two more outcasts — an explorer whose views aren’t accepted by the adventurer­s’ club he longs to join, and a lonely, lastof-his-breed sasquatch who wants to leave the Pacific Northwest and join his cousins in the Himalayas.

The question is whether Butler’s fable, which echoes such films as Around the World in 80 Days and Raiders of the Lost Ark, weaves its wit, intellect and emotions in a fully engaging way. The answer is only sometimes, though always with impressive skill. Yet too often, the story loses its emotional energy, stalling among the intricacie­s of fight scenes or Himalayan vistas. Only Zach

Galifianak­is, voicing the sasquatch character Mr. Link, keeps his naive heart firmly on his, er, fur, at all times. Other characters seem to explain the plot rather than live it.

In a ravishing prologue, Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman), a smug yet dashing British explorer, sips tea in a canoe as the Loch Ness monster looms above and then gives him and his manservant a really wild ride. But the fusty old men in London’s Optimates Club don’t believe Sir Lionel’s tales of Nessies or sasquatche­s or yetis. Nor do they accept evolution. He vows to prove them all wrong.

A letter arrives suggesting Sir Lionel might find the last surviving sasquatch/ Bigfoot in Washington state. The two meet cute in the piney woods, where Sir Lionel is shocked that Mr. Link, as he dubs him, reads and speaks English. Mr. Link, who would really rather be called “Susan,” after a lady prospector who once smiled at him, begs the explorer to take him to the Himalayas, where he can join his probable cousins, the yeti. “I’m lonely,” he says.

Missing Link does not lay an egg by any means. It is visually stunning, with well-realized characters and humor that really does work. Yet somehow, ambitious as it is, the film doesn’t sail easily enough between the yak-poo jokes and its more serious themes of loneliness and otherness. Missing Link is impressive, but it’s still missing something.

 ?? Laika Studios/annapurna Pictures ?? The film features the voices of Hugh Jackman (Sir Lionel Frost, left), Zach Galifianak­is (Mr. Link) and Zoe Saldana (Adelina Fortnight).
Laika Studios/annapurna Pictures The film features the voices of Hugh Jackman (Sir Lionel Frost, left), Zach Galifianak­is (Mr. Link) and Zoe Saldana (Adelina Fortnight).

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