By Joseph McAleer
NEW YORK (CNS) — The fabled Bigfoot monster turns out to be a kind-hearted furball in the animated comedy-adventure “Missing Link” (Annapurna). Though acceptable for grown-ups and older teens, the inclusion of some dodgy humor means this is not a cartoon for kids.
A spirited send-up of Victorian England, the film centers on dashing Sir Lionel Frost (voice of Hugh Jackman), a world-famous investigator of myths and monsters who can lasso the Loch Ness Monster with ease.
Sir Lionel longs to join the London-based Optimates Club, an elite group of explorers. To be eligible, however, he must find and document a major discovery (Nessie was, unfortunately, camera-shy).
Opportunity arises by way of a letter from America. The sender promises to show Sir Lionel the “missing link,” the lost species that bridges man and beast, also known as Sasquatch and — as aforementioned — Bigfoot.
“The game is afoot!” Sir Lionel exclaims, echoing Sherlock Holmes.
He heads west, over the objections of his archrival (and Optimates member), Lord Piggot-Dunceby (voice of Stephen Fry). Determined to thwart Sir Lionel’s quest (and his membership), the peer dispatches a bounty hunter, Willard Stenk (voice of Timothy Olyphant), to follow him.
Deep in a Pacific Northwest forest, Sir Lionel tracks down the letter writer — who turns out to be the missing link himself (voice of Zach Galifianakis). This eight-foot, 650-pound, fur-covered ape is a gentle giant who speaks the Queen’s English. He’s desperately lonely and pleads with Sir Lionel to take him to the Himalayas so he can find his long-lost relatives, the Yeti.
Always game for an adventure, Sir Lionel agrees, and dubs his newfound friend “Mr. Link.” Bigfoot, himself, however, prefers to be known as Susan. Whether that incongruous moniker represents mere eccentricity or some form of gender confusion is not made clear.
With the addition of Adelina Fortnight (voice of Zoe Saldana), Sir Lionel’s erstwhile flame who possesses a map showing secret mountain passages, the expedition commences.
“Missing Link” barrels along merrily as the trio, pursued by Stenk, makes its way to the valley of the mythical Shangri-La. There they encounter the elaborately tressed Yeti Elder (voice of Emma Thompson), who offers a frosty welcome to her “country cousin.” In the Yeti language, Shangri-La means, “Keep out. We hate you,” she explains.
The stop-motion animation in “Missing Link,” written and directed by Chris Butler (“ParaNorman”), is impressive, offering up spectacular, photo-realistic vistas.
Unfortunately, many of the gags are aimed at grown-ups and, in some cases, teeter on bad taste. They include jokes about homosexuality and a routine in which Sir Lionel disguises himself as a nun.
These are needless distractions from an otherwise enjoyable jaunt. They also make suspect the script’s generally positive message about understanding differences — though its celebration of the enduring bonds of friendship and family remains entirely acceptable.
The film contains mature, sometimes rude humor, cartoon mayhem and some peril. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.