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'Missing Link' review: The monster is the weak link

"Missing Link" characters are, from left, Sir Lionel

"Missing Link" characters are, from left, Sir Lionel Frost, voiced by Hugh Jackman; Mr. Link, voiced by Zach Galifianakis; and Adelina Fortnight, voiced by Zoe Saldana. Photo Credit: Laika Studios/Annapurna Pictures


PLOT A British adventurer encounters a living Sasquatch.

CAST The voices of Hugh Jackman, Zach Galifianakis, Zoe Saldana and Stephen Fry

RATED PG (moments of peril)

LENGTH 1:35

BOTTOM LINE Wry British humor and stellar stop-motion animation from the creators of “ParaNorman.”

Blend Basil Rathbone’s upper-crust Sherlock Holmes and Harrison Ford’s rascally Indiana Jones, and you’ll get something like Hugh Jackman’s Sir Lionel Frost in the stop-motion film “Missing Link.” Sir Lionel is a scientist, explorer, monster seeker and, above all, a Brit. He always keeps calm and carries on, even when his assistant is eaten alive by the Loch Ness Monster.

“Ah,” says a surprised Sir Lionel. “Carnivore.”

The assistant is rescued in daring fashion by Sir Lionel, which is why we forgive this arrogant, arrow-nosed aristocrat his faults. Indeed, our hearts go out to him when The Optimates Club of London — the kind of organization a Livingstone or an Amundsen would belong to — kicks him out for his kooky talk of Bigfoots and Sasquatches. If only the missing link of the film's title, who appears in the forests of Washington state and becomes a major character, were nearly as appealing a character.

He's a furry, pear-shaped hulk with a pink, bifurcated snout that makes him looks more porcine than humanoid. He also speaks with the distinctively congested voice of Zach Galifianakis. The "Hangover" actor specializes in childlike, socially maladroit characters, and the running joke here is that an ostensibly frightening creature like the Sasquatch (nicknamed Link) would talk and act like a shy, lonely office clerk. “I don’t entertain much,” Link says, gesturing to his filthy cave, “ever.”

“Missing Link” comes from Laika (“The Boxtrolls,” “Kubo and the Two Strings”), and the studio's stop-motion animation is unparalleled for its expressiveness and fluidity. Its screenplays, however, are less graceful. Writer-director Chris Butler (Laika’s “ParaNorman”) has the right idea: Pair a sophisticated snob with a childish oaf and send them on an adventure. (Zoe Saldana, as the pretty Adelina Fortnight, joins them but feels like a third wheel.) The buddies in this comedy never click, and it’s mostly Link’s fault. The character feels overly familiar — clumsy, literal-minded, unaware of his size and strength — and Galifianakis doesn’t do much to freshen up the shtick.

There’s much fun to be had from the supporting characters: Stephen Fry as the haughty Lord Piggot-Dunceby, Timothy Olyphant as a Wild West gunslinger and Emma Thompson as a haughty yeti. All in all it’s a reasonably enjoyable film, despite the weakness of its Link.

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