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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Missing Link is a stop-action/computer-generated animated adventure from LAIKA, the studio behind Kubo and the Two Strings, The Boxtrolls, and ParaNorman. Starring the voices of Hugh Jackman, Zach Galifianakis, and Zoe Saldana, the movie -- which feels like a cross between a road trip comedy and a buddy adventure -- follows a 19th-century English adventurer (Jackman) who teams up with a lonely Bigfoot (Galifianakis) to find his distant relatives, the Yetis of the Himalayas. Expect some violent scenes in which guns are used, as well as a few character deaths (though they're all in the "bad guy" camp). One climactic sequence is particularly tense, as is a terrifying moment when a villain threatens a grandmother and her infant grandchild at gunpoint -- but (spoiler alert!) it all ends well for the main characters. Language is limited to "bugger," "sucks," and historical slang like "poppycock." There's a bit of flirting but no actual romance, although there are references to Sir Lionel's rakish past. There are positive messages about friendship, identity, and partnership and themes of empathy and teamwork, but given the storyline and the humor, Missing Link is better suited for older elementary schoolers.
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What's the story?
MISSING LINK follows Sir Lionel Frost (voiced by Hugh Jackman), who's determined to be admitted into London's prestigious members-only club for adventurers. He believes that finding the Sasquatch in the American West will provide the "missing link" between humans and early man. So Lionel makes a wager with the club's president, Lord Piggot-Dunceb (Stephen Fry): If Lionel can prove that Bigfoot is real, he must be allowed into the club. But the haughty lord isn't interested in Frost's Darwinist's theories and hires a hit man (Timothy Olyphant) to kill Lionel before he can return to England. In America, Lionel finds the Sasquatch (Zach Galifianakis), who can speak English and prefers to be called Susan. Lonely as the only one of his kind, Susan convinces Lionel to help him find his "cousins," the Yetis. Lionel agrees, but first they must get a map to Shangri-La from a fellow adventurer's widow, the fearless and fiery Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana), who accompanies Lionel and Susan on a cross-continental trip to the snowy Himalayas.
Is it any good?
Charming and beautifully animated, LAIKA's buddy Bigfoot adventure is funny and sweet, if not quite as poignant as Kubo or as memorable as Coraline. There's slightly more style than substance here, but the style is amazing. As the end-credits sequence illustrates, LAIKA's combination of elaborate stop-action animation enhanced with computer animation is simply stunning -- no detail is spared, from the texture on the era-appropriate clothes and the fur on Susan and the Yetis to the grand landscapes of snow-capped mountains and the clutter of Victorian-era London's busy streets. LAIKA's films are so intricately made that you can rewatch them and catch something new to focus on each time, particularly backgrounds and secondary characters.
As for the story, it's a fairly straightforward unlikely-friendship adventure. Lionel and Susan learn from each other and become a comical odd-couple duo, with Adelina a much-needed force turning them into a functional trio. Adelina's competence and quick wit (her marksmanship is as notable as her beauty) are matched by her empathy for Susan's plight. Adelina's fast-paced banter with Lionel makes it seem like a romance between them is inevitable, but the movie isn't a love story -- it's about friendship and progress. The villain, Lord Piggot-Dunceb, is a fabulous reminder of what happens when privileged elites scoff at change or at those who challenge authority. Of course, there's no class element, since Lionel and Adelina are both rich, too, but the message is still clear: Pride comes before the fall (quite literally), and empathy and generosity are more important than self-absorption and glory.
Talk to your kids about ...
What audience do you think the movie is intended for? What aspects make it more mature than the average kids' flick?
How does the movie depict privilege and prejudice? Why do you think people are resistant to change?
- In theaters: April 12, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: July 23, 2019
- Cast: Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana, Timothy Olyphant, Zach Galifianakis
- Director: Chris Butler
- Studio: Annapurna Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Character Strengths: Empathy, Teamwork
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: action/peril and some mild rude humor
- Awards/Honors: Golden Globe
- Last updated: April 23, 2020
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