Saturday, December 21, 2019

Movie with Abe: Missing Link

Missing Link
Directed by Chris Butler
Released April 12, 2019

There’s an unfortunate tendency throughout human history to hate and attempt to conquer that which we don’t understand. Rather than ask questions and try to comprehend the true intentions behind another people or species, we assume the worst and end up ruining any hope of a peaceful relationship, or at least wait to try to establish one until after there have already been unnecessary casualties. There are many literary and cinematic stories of beings or people perceived to be terrible and dangerous that just require a different interpretation, and, even if one person is willing to consider whether they may not actually pose a threat, the masses will usually still come running with pitchforks.

Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) wants nothing more than to be accepted by his peers for his daring investigation of myths and monsters, but is having trouble being taken seriously. A letter telling him that Big Foot exists leads him to Mr. Link (Zach Galifianakis), a surprisingly evolved and well-spoken creature who just wants to be reunited with other members of his kind, if any still exist. Eager to prove his discovery, Frost agrees to escort him to Shangri-La, a trip that won’t be easy thanks to those Frost has angered in the past, like Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana), and those with more sinister aims, like bounty hunter Willard Stenk (Timothy Olyphant).

This film’s title establishes Link, whose name is given to him for this very reason, as a lost piece of evolutionary history that will explain so much once Frost can actually convince anyone that he really exists. Much humor is derived from the fact that Link is clearly well-read but has no experience out in the world, meaning that he has no appreciation for or ability to distinguish sarcasm, which results in a number of hilarious responses where he takes Frost all too literally when he makes an absurd suggestion. His large, lanky form is the most obvious inspiration for comedy, but the writing here builds on that to make Link a genuinely endearing if completely inept social specimen.

“Missing Link” is the fifth feature production from stop-motion animation studio Laika, in good company with “Kubo and the Two Strings,” “The Boxtrolls,” “ParaNorman,” and “Coraline.” This latest imaginative project features a concept that has been frequently visited before, and even framed in a similar context with close-minded villains looking to squash individuality for the sake of money or societal progress. Yet there’s something that feels joyously original in this presentation, one that is beautiful and colorful. It’s hardly complex, but its simplicity works wonderfully, paying tribute to its protagonist, who really is just a nice guy unsure of how he fits into the world.


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