Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Missing Link

I suppose I should have expected the relatively low turnout after going to the same multiplex to see Master Z on Saturday and seeing a guy in a pretty nice Mister Susan Link costume, almost certainly sent out by the studio, just kind of awkwardly standing in the hallway, without any kids around to pantomime for. Like I say in the review, I kind of get why Laika's films haven't yet managed to click with audiences - they're eccentric in a way that probably captivates longtime animation fans and film critics more than the Pixar and DreamWorks films that, either through incredible instinct or careful engineering, almost-unfailingly manage broad appeal. I figured maybe Spider-Verse might have stoked a little more interest in unique animation style, but not this one.

Or maybe it's just blurring in with the other animated yeti/sasquatch movies; it's six months after Smallfoot and about that long before Abominable, so maybe it's not quite so close. But maybe people felt like they'd already seen this before, although it sure looks like it's the best of the group. It's weird to see a preview for one of these in front of the other, though; makes the whole thing feel like some sort of relay race.

The audience was small enough that it was easy enough to pick out the four- or five-year-old girl who was watching it and into the movie enough to have questions. I kind of love that; part of watching a movie with a crowd is hearing how the crowd reacts, and a kid who does this with enthusiasm is reacting just like someone laughing or screaming. A year or two older, and it's not quite the same, but that sheer enthusiasm is delightful. Her mom or dad took her out before the movie ended, unfortunately; maybe some of the other folks in the audience just figured talking was talking.

Ah, well; hopefully whoever puts Annapurna's movies out on disc will do it up with a 3D/4K bundle. I say it all the time, but it deserves both. Part of the real shame of how theaters have killed the goose that laid the golden egg with 3D is that it looks like this will only be showing in 2D after just seven days, when though it's part of a pretty impressive string of films that are very much using the third dimension with purpose rather than just doing an obligatory conversion after the fact.

Missing Link

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 14 April 2019 in AMC Boston Common #5 (first-run, RealD 3D DCP)

There were only a handful of people in the theater for a 3D screening of Missing Link on a Sunday evening two days after it opened, and while there are potential reasons for sparse attendance in the description, I'm starting to wonder what more Laika has to do to get people to come out for their movies. Missing Link is, as is customary with this company's productions, whimsically designed, big-hearted, impeccably voiced, precisely and beautifully filmed one frame at a time, and just generally everything one might wish a movie for the whole family to be. What else do these guys have to do?

Admittedly, there are ways in which one can understand some skepticism. As much as one almost cannot help but be impressed by the sheer labor-intensive nature of shooting a stop-motion feature, the result often lacks the smooth, friendly looks of digital or hand-drawn animation (at least that made with kids in mind); these movies often have the vibe of weird nineteenth-century toys come to life. And Laika has never made it particularly easy to get past that; their design sense has often been eccentric at the very least and often unnerving: Breakout picture Coraline is unabashedly creepy at points, and while most recent film Kubo and the Two Strings is in many ways an astonishing achievement, its ambition and oddity are, perhaps, more than many in the audience were prepared for.

In many ways, this movie is a bit of a reaction to that. The story is relatively straightforward - would-be late-1800s explorer Sir Lionel Frost (voice of Hugh Jackman) aims to make his mark on the world by making great discoveries in the field of cryptozoology, but his recklessness and questionable priorities have made him a laughingstock among the circles he wishes to join. A letter he received from Washington State hinting at a chance to find a sasquatch may be his last chance. It's not what he thinks, though - the ape-man (voice of Zach Galifianakis) sent Frost the letter himself, hoping the explorer could guide him to what he presumes are his yeti cousins in the Himalayas, so he would no longer be alone. Two issues with that: First, the only map to Shangri-La is in the hands of Adelina Fortnight (voice of Zoe Saldana), a young widow still angry at Frost over past encounters, while Lord Piggot-Dunceby (voice of Stephen Fry), head of the exclusive club to which Frost is seeking admission, has hired an American gunslinger named Stenk (voice of Timothy Olyphant), to see that no evidence of this evolutionary intermediate ever comes to light.

Full review on EFilmCritic

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