Movie Review: Laika Puts Its Own Lovely Spin on the Bigfoot Myth with ‘Missing Link’

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CREDIT: Laika Studios/Annapurna Pictures

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Zach Galifianakis, Zoe Saldana, Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, Timothy Olyphant, David Walliams, Matt Lucas, Amrita Acharia, Ching Valdez-Aran

Director: Chris Butler

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Rating: PG for Wild West-Style Gunfire and Icy Heights

Release Date: April 12, 2019

The Bigfoot-based Missing Link features enough bullets flying around and enough characters falling to their (presumed) deaths to make me wonder if it is really appropriate for children. Its PG rating is justified in that we do not see the bloodiest ends of these lethal situations, and as a stop-motion animated feature, the whole aesthetic is too charming to ever be gruesome. But I still wonder about how well young kids are equipped to handle such unmistakable peril. Honestly, though, my preference is that we give children some psychological credit and let them be exposed to these frights. So thank you for not holding back, Laika (the production company behind this and other stop-motion flicks like Coraline and Kubo and the Two Strings).

The innovation I love about Missing Link is that its humanoid ape creature is perfectly willing to expose himself to society, or at least to Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman), the bon vivant searching for him. Furthermore, Mr. Link (Zach Galifianakis) speaks perfectly fluent English, which could make the gags based on his inability to grasp sarcasm and metaphor illogical except for the fact that there are plenty of real human people who are similarly not so fast on the uptake themselves in such lingual matters.

Anyway, Mr. Link is tired of living by himself in the Pacific Northwest, and he’s heard that his cousins the Yeti are cool up in the mountains of Asia, so he asks Lionel to lead him there. What follows is a buddy road trip movie in which everyone is gratifyingly on the same side as each other and making a deal that benefits them all fairly. We the audience get to witness some genuine, hopefully lifelong friendships blooming over the course of this high-stakes adventure. If a predictable message of “what you’ve been looking for has been right in front of you all along” pops up by the end, it’s safe to say that Missing Link has earned that indulgence.

Missing Link is Recommended If You Like: Previous Laika features, Kid-friendly Wild West adventures, Smallfoot

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Yeti Elders

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Peter Rabbit’ is Fun Enough for the Kiddos, But It’s Also Kind of Insane

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CREDIT: Sony Pictures

This review was originally posted on News Cult in February 2018.

Starring: James Corden, Domhnall Gleeson, Rose Byrne, Daisy Ridley, Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, Matt Lucas, Sia, Sam Neill

Director: Will Gluck

Running Time: 93 Minutes

Rating: PG for Cartoonish, But Quite Dangerous, Violence

Release Date: February 9, 2018

For the most part, Peter Rabbit is just another trifling kids movie with CG-animated animals. It is not the worst of the menagerie, though it is far from the best. But like many movies of this ilk, it also raises some weird metaphysical conundrums that I do not think it ever planned on grappling with but that it cannot avoid entirely. When you have anthropomorphic animals interacting with humans, especially when those humans are played by live-action actors, you have to decide how much the humans can recognize the critters’ extraordinary abilities. When the beasts talk to each other, does it just sound like animal noises to people? Or can they hear it perfectly, thus forcing the animals to be discreet? Or maybe there is only Dr. Dolittle-type, going mad over the loneliness of his interspecies communication powers.

In this case, Peter (James Corden), his triplet sisters Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki), Flopsy (Margot Robbie), and Cottontail (Daisy Ridley), and their cousin Benjamin Bunny (Matt Lucas) are quite sneaky, and as their schemes become more and more elaborate, there is no reason to pretend that they are not fully intelligent creatures. The confirmation that they can in fact talk to humans is a rather sloppy reveal, as it begs the question: how have they hidden this secret for so long? Regardless of what mysterious machinations they have pulled off, the narrative requires that they spill the truth, considering that Peter is responsible for extensive property damage, and furthermore, he wants to apologize to Bea (Rose Byrne), the human that he loves, and make peace with Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson), the human that he has been torturing. This all makes for a resolution that is sweet but with disturbing subtext.

But beyond that, this is a fairly typical entry for this genre, as typified by its soundtrack of the pop hits of the past twenty years. Len’s “Steal My Sunshine,” Basement Jaxx’s “Do Your Thing,” and Portugal. The Man’s “Feel It Still” will keep the kids bouncing in their chairs without challenging their soundscapes. Lady Bird can take note that Peter’s use of Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash Into Me” is not similarly profound. Elsewhere, the film’s raison d’être is excessively painful physical gags, including a truly worrying number of electrocutions (this is nowhere near as gentle as Beatrix Potter’s source material). There is a rake gag that I must admit I chuckled at, though I am concerned that the target audience will not realize how heavily indebted it is to The Simpsons. And that is indicative of the whole: a satisfying diversion, but with some worrisome implications.

Peter Rabbit is Recommended If You Like: MouseHunt, Dr. Dolittle, the Pop Dance Hits of Today!

Grade: 3 out of 5 Winking Rabbits