MOVIE REVIEW: Ape man adventure will charm the kiddies
Director Chris Butler
Starring Hugh Jackman, Zach Galifianakis, Zoe Saldana
Running time 94 minutes
Verdict Agreeable odd couple adventure-comedy
A mythical beast has a good deal of fun at the expense of a bunch of old white men in this sweet, animated adventure.
Zach Galifianakis' rust-coloured ape-man even teaches his would-be saviour a thing or two about evolution - with the help of a fearless female adventurer.
So far, so decade without a catchy moniker (the teens just haven't caught on).
Missing Link, a distinctive, stop-motion animation directed by Chris Butler (ParaNorman), is set in the mid-to-late 19th century, when zoology and naturalism were all the rage (Darwin published On The Origin Of Species in 1859).
In a cracker opening sequence, myths and monsters investigator Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) lures a googly-eyed Loch Ness Monster from the depths with a set of underwater bagpipes.
It's a seamless piece of action-comedy choreography in which Frost is forced to sacrifice his photographic proof of the beast's existence to rescue his hapless offsider.
Determined to gain admittance to an elite club of gentlemen explorers, the irrepressible dreamer shakes off his disappointment - following a new lead to the northwestern US frontier.
Whereupon, the planet's last remaining Sasquatch (Galifianakis) cautiously introduces himself.
Meek, well mannered, literate, and lonely, Link is nothing like Frost imagined him to be - although his growl is suitably awesome.
The gentle giant has contacted Frost in the hope he will escort him to the Himalayas, to be reunited with his cousins, the Abominable Snowmen.
Since Link can provide Frost with scientific proof of the missing link, he agrees.
En route, they accumulate a rare and precious map, along with Frost's old flame, a feisty Latin trailblazer named Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana).
And so begins a perilous journey across prairies, oceans, steppes and mountains - with a trigger-happy bounty hunter in pursuit.
The comedy writing is wildly uneven - a clichéd sequence involving an ancient Tibetan crone, for example, is close to cringe-worthy.
But the easygoing charm of Missing Link's archetypal odd couple is hard to resist and Emma Thompson has fun as an imperious yeti, despite the thinness of her material.
Butler's occasionally inspired action-comedy fails to deliver on its initial promise, but enough of the jokes hit their mark to provide an amiable afternoon's entertainment for school holiday audiences and their chaperones.
Missing Link opens on Thursday.