Monday, April 22, 2019

Missing Link (2019)

Director and writer Chris Butler has done a few animated features I liked (Corpse Bride, Coraline, and Paranorman, plus Kubo and the Two Strings, which I still haven't seen but hear is good). Also, the marketing for this one reached me through my kindle—I already knew that clownish feathery Big Bird look of the monster on first sight, so maybe my unconscious was manipulated into the choice. Missing Link is a Bigfoot story, set in the late 1800s, but the twists on the various aura of Sasquatch legends come early and often. This hairy eight-foot-tall monster (voiced by Zach Galifianakis) speaks English and is a sensitive, mild-mannered, timid soul, charming but almost fawning. In the right mood he can roar frighteningly, but more often he's like the polite restless smart kid who's been traveling in the car too long. He reads a lot and wants to join the yeti in the Himalayas he's read about. He's the only one of his kind in the Washington state forests (nice to see Washington!) and he's lonely. So he sends a letter to lure the great explorer and possible crackpot, Sir Lionel Frost (voiced by Hugh Jackman, having the time of his life). Frost is a bit of a Sherlock Holmes type and a preening egotist who fancies himself the world's unrivaled discoverer of monsters. The first scenes feature an encounter with the Loch Ness monster, for example. He wants to join an exclusive explorers club that won't have him without firm evidence of his claims and even then probably won't have him. He's disreputable by his very interests and beliefs. Bigfoot's letter works, he and Frost strike the deal, and they're off to storied Shangri-La. Along the way they pick up an old flame of Frost's, Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana), and a would-be assassin, Willard Stenk (Timothy Olyphant). It's a long way from Washington state to the Himalayas. Frost puts Bigfoot in a ridiculous outfit and names him Mr. Link (evolution is a side issue here). Later Mr. Link chooses Susan for his first name. It's all light-hearted and actually a lot of fun—Galifianakis stealing scenes at will, aided and abetted by animation that harks to a cleaned-up buffed-up Jay Ward style for Frost and Adelina, reminiscent of Snidely Whiplash and Nell, with flat heads, jutting chins, poufy lips, and razor-sharp angular lines. Mr. Susan Link is wonderfully expressive, toothy and bubbly. I liked it best when they were all clowning around at their ease, even in danger, but there's a big action-packed climax too. The whole thing is compact and clever enough that it adds up to a fun time.

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