Missing Link (Blu-ray Review)
Release Date(s)2019 (July 23, 2019)
Studio(s)Annapurna Pictures/LAIKA/United Artists (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: C+
The fifth film in LAIKA Entertainment’s stop-motion animated repertoire (preceded by Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls, and Kubo and the Two Strings), Missing Link is a more lighthearted affair than their previous efforts with a stronger focus on the comedy, but always with a beating heart behind it. Sadly, it was not an effort fully appreciated upon its theatrical release as it failed to recoup its production costs, and with a cast that includes Zach Galifianakis, Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana, and Timothy Olyphant, it’s a misfortune that it didn’t receive a stronger turnout – the lowest for any of LAIKA’s beautiful and entertaining masterworks thus far.
The film’s story takes place during the late 1800s. Sir Lionel Frost (Jackman), a man devoted to the discovery of mythological beasts, hopes to gain acceptance into the posh and highly elite social club, the Society of Great Men. Treated as an outcast, Frost travels across the Atlantic to discover the whereabouts of the fabled bigfoot, whereupon he meets Mr. Link (Galifianakis), a friendly, but lonely and sheltered Sasquatch who yearns for companions like himself. Eventually realizing that acceptance into the Society of Great Men is not as important as it was to him before, Frost promises to accompany Mr. Link to the Himalayas where his cousins, the Yetis, are said to be dwelling. Along the way, they cross paths with Adelina (Saldana), Frost’s former flame who goes along for the ride. At their heels is the malicious head of the Society of Great Men, Lord Piggot-Dunceby (Stephen Fry), who has them followed by Willard Stenk (Olyphant), a bounty hunter for hire with plenty of bullets in his gun and a penchant for slaying large animals.
Writer and director Chris Butler (who also helmed ParaNorman) takes charge of this cheerful adventure story, giving it plenty of likable characters and humor to keep one engaged throughout. It may not be top tier LAIKA material, but like all of their efforts, it’s highly enjoyable. The performances are strong, the animation is gorgeous, and the story is witty and touching in all the right ways without being heavy-handed or indulging in the type of clichéd, family film humor that so many films from the Dreamworks library are more than guilty of. Above all else, it’s always a pleasure to see the hard-working folks behind the art form of stop-motion animation working at the height of their powers. In today’s movie climate, it’s one of the few magic tricks left.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment brings Missing Link to Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1. It’s a beautiful and crisp presentation that leaves no room for complaint. Detail is abundant in the frame in all respects; whether in close-ups of Mr. Link’s (aka Susan’s) fir, Frost’s and Adelina’s wardrobe, or the snowy environments of the Himalayas, all is precise and clear. Compression issues are non-existent and black levels are deep and inky. The color palette is appropriately robust. With a variety of environments – trains, ships, wooded areas, and snow-covered glaciers – there’s plenty of opportunity for a variety of hues, and the film delivers that in spades. It’s actually one of LAIKA’s most colorful films. Contrast and brightness levels are also virtually perfect. The only way this could look any better would be in 4K with an HDR pass to give color and clarity added dimension. It's an otherwise perfect high definition presentation.
The audio is provided in English Dolby Atmos and English 5.1 Descriptive Audio with optional subtitles in English SDH and Spanish, as well as English and Spanish options for the audio commentary (a nice touch indeed). Like its video counterpart, the audio for the film is appropriately potent. It’s an immersive experience with the film’s score given a wide breadth in the rear speakers while sound effects, especially atmospherics, are placed all around. LFE moments are not all that frequent, but do crop up during some of the more energetic moments in the film. Dialogue is always clear and discernable, and the overall track never needs any volume adjustment as its well-attenuated. Again, nothing amiss here.
Missing Link is presented in a Blu-ray and DVD Combo Pack with a paper insert containing a Digital code. Also included are several bonus materials, all of which are presented in HD:
- Audio Commentary by writer/director Chris Butler
- Creating Mr. Link (1:23)
- Bringing the Final Battle on the Ice Bridge to Life (1:46)
- Animation Inspiration (with Optional Audio Commentary by Chris Butler) (3:44)
- VFX Breakdown Reel – Realizing the Potential of Stop Motion (6:05)
- Oh What a Mystery: Pulling the Camera Back on Missing Link’s Magic (2:25)
- Making Faces (:46)
- Inside the Magic of LAIKA (2:46)
- Gallery (24 behind-the-scenes images – 2:05)
- Theatrical Trailer
Most of the extras gloss over the film’s production, though do provide valuable insight, albeit briefly. Chris Butler’s solo audio commentary is quite enjoyable, as are the Animation Inspiration and VFX Breakdown Reel featurettes. The former is a picture-in-picture storyboard and visual effects comparison while the latter is presented by VFX supervisor Steve Emerson and shows us scenes from the film at various stages of production. The Oh What a Mystery video also showcases a peppy, high speed look at the stop-motion animation system in progress. Additionally, there is a Sneak Peak section containing trailers for Breakthrough (which also opens the disc), The Miracle Season, and Dog Days.
While a 4K-UHD boxed set of LAIKA’s films is likely (though a deal would have to be worked out between 20th Century Fox and Universal Pictures to do it), the Blu-ray release of Missing Link offers enough of a stellar presentation with a set of minor, though enjoyable, extras by its side to make it a worthy purchase.
- Tim Salmons
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