I really wanted “Missing Link” to be good. Not only am I a huge fan of stop-motion, but I also love Hugh Jackman, Zach Galifianakis and Zoe Saldana, the film’s three stars. But while the movie did deliver with a rich, colorful and intricate stop-motion style, it didn’t have a lot going for it outside the stunning visuals.
For a film intended to be a straight-up comedy, there were surprisingly few jokes that actually landed. Something about the delivery seemed off, like the actors were trying too hard to be funny. Which, with an all-star cast led by the likes of comedy veteran Galifianakis, was probably due to poor writing or directing rather than the actors themselves.
Aside from the fact that “Missing Link” is an unfunny comedy, there were a few other things working for and against it. The stop-motion style of the visuals was put to fantastic use, and the film ended up being a delightful visual feast.
The group responsible for the film, Laika Studios, is the same one that did “Kubo and the Two Strings” in 2016 and “Coraline” back in 2009, both to great critical and commercial success. They had experience in stop-motion before working on “Missing Link,” and it really showed.
From the first second of the film to the last, Laika’s near perfected stop-motion stylistic techniques left their fingerprints all over the somewhat lackluster story. The film was an absolute treat to look at, and no matter how bored I got during the movie itself, I didn’t dare look away for even a second for fear of missing the next beautiful sequence.
I admit I am predisposed to stop-motion and have always loved the highly stylized feel of stop-motion works. However, even in terms of other stop-motion films, this one was a cut above in terms of visuals.
Unfortunately, the visuals were the only thing the film got right. Aside from unfunny jokes and poorly directed actors, the film also wasted its high-potential premise. The writers got all the basic story elements in place and even had a strong thematic message that tied the work together, but I felt they just didn’t capitalize on their setting or story.
The plot follows Jackman’s character, an adventurer and monster hunter no one takes seriously, as he treks literally across the globe using trains, ships, horses and other 1800s transportation technology in an effort to bring Galifianakis’ character, Mr. Link, to Britain to show off his discovery — then to Asia to reunite him with others of his kind. Meanwhile, the two are tailed the whole way by a vicious thug set on stealing Jackman’s character’s discovery.
It’s a plot with promise for sure, but the writers waste most of its comedic and emotional potential by skipping around through the journey and focusing more on the destination than the road to get there.
The film does have some emotional moments in it, and if there’s one thing other than quality stop-motion that Laika has proved itself capable of in the past, it’s drama. The characters do show genuine emotional release, and while the thematic elements are stretched a little thin over the film’s skeletal structure, they work nonetheless.
“Missing Link’s” main flaw is trying to be a comedy without any good jokes. The film’s over-emphasis on comedic elements that just aren’t there makes the whole thing feel empty and dull. The style is phenomenal, but spectacular visuals can’t make up for a poor plotline. I really wanted to like this film, but I can’t in good conscience recommend it. Laika missed the mark with this one. Let’s hope they do better with their next stop-motion story.
Keagan Miller is a psychology junior and Life & Arts columnist for The Battalion.