Famed 19th-century British adventurer Sir Lionel Frost has tracked many a mythical monster. But despite his worldwide reputation, a clique of snobby old adventurers in London (led by one Lord Piggot-Dunceb) refuses to grant Sir Lionel the thing he longs for more than anything: legitimacy.
But then Lionel gets a mysterious letter from Oregon. Its seemingly knowledgeable author promises to help the world-famous adventurer track down the most legendary, mythical beast of them all: the ever-elusive Sasquatch. Perhaps, Lionel reasons, this discovery will finally be his ticket to admittance to the adventurer's club. So he packs his bags and heads west.
Lionel doesn't have to wait long. In fact, he's only in the Oregon forest for about, oh, 60 seconds or so before the 8-foot-tall beast appears. It's almost as if he wants to be found.
In fact, he does.
That's because the creature—whom Lionel quickly dubs Mr. Link, as in, the missing link—is the last of his kind. He's lonely. And very smart: Lionel is quite startled when the orange ape-man starts talking. It seems Mr. Link wants Lionel to help him find a legendary place in the Himalayas where others of his kind, the yeti, are rumored to live. A place called Shangri-La.
Turns out Lionel knows where a map to that fabled place might exist: in the safe of a former flame named Adelina Fortnight, who soon joins their quest as well.
Of course, Lord Piggot-Dunceb isn't about to sit back and let Sir Lionel Frost publicize his discoveries. So he sends an assassin, the dastardly Willard Stenk, to make sure nobody ever learns about any of it.
Sir Lionel Frost's determination to win the approval of his peers fuels his single-minded pursuit of his furry quarry. And the resilience he shows in that pursuit is indeed an admirable thing. But throughout the film, Lionel (with the help of Adelina and Mr. Link) gradually realizes his compulsion to earn others' acceptance isn't very positive. In fact, it's a mark of his insecurity—a realization that slowly dawns on him.
Adelina, in particular, challenges Lionel to look in the mirror and see how selfishness drives him. In the end, Lionel realizes that the value of friendship outweighs his longstanding desire for fame, glory and acceptance on the world's terms.
Mr. Link, for his part, is a simple creature who's compelled by a desire we can all relate to: He longs for companionship, to be with others of his own kind.
In a number of perilous moments, Lionel, Mr. Link and Adelina all risk their lives to save each other.
Lionel repeatedly mentions the concept of evolution, and he seems very much to believe in it. He's motivated to find the Sasquatch in part because he wants to find "proof that man's primate ancestors are not just flights of fancy," and that the Sasquatch might just be the fabled evolutionary "missing link."
Lord Piggot-Dunceby rejects the theory of evolution: "I say we are descended from great men, not great apes." He also talks approvingly of those who "butchered the ungodly" in foreign lands. Someone at the adventurers' club exclaims, "God save the Queen!" Elsewhere, we hear someone say, "How the devil?" At one point, Lionel disguises himself in a nun’s habit and crosses himself.
We hear a reference to another explorer being killed in an avalanche in a geographical region between Pakistan and Afghanistan known as the "Hindu Kush." In what appears to be India, they see a large idol statue while traveling by elephant.
Shangri-La is described as a "sacred valley" and as "a place of uncommon beauty, Earth's Eden where people never grow old." Lionel, Mr. Link and Adelina travel through a stereotypical Himalayan village where they meet a vaguely spiritual character named Gamu who describes Shangri-La as a place that is "not lost," but "hidden—hidden by choice."
There's talk of seeking Atlantis and hunting for mermaids.
Lionel and Adelina once had a romance, but she eventually chose another suitor. Lionel is depicted as a playboy of sorts, and we see a montage of gossipy, tabloid-like newspaper headlines detailing his alleged indiscretions. (One of which apparently involved a famous ballerina.) Lionel and Adelina rekindle their chemistry, but she's not eager to rush into a relationship with him because she knows his character shortcomings all too well. That said, they nearly kiss on a couple of occasions, but each time they're interrupted.
While riding into a small Oregon town, Lionel sees a woman in what appears to be a brothel who blows him a kiss.
Mr. Link has a somewhat effeminate manner. When Lionel eventually tells him that he should claim a name for himself of his own choosing, Mr. Link selects … Susan. Lionel is somewhat taken aback, saying hesitantly, "Link, that is a girl's name," before amending, "Yes, it suits you."
At one point, Lionel instructs Mr. Link, "Hold me tightly" as they try to escape imprisonment. Mr Link responds quizzically, "Are you sure? Adeline is watching." And when a horse touches Mr. Link's backside unexpectedly, he responds suggestively, "Oh, I barely know you!" Lionel also talks about a place where Mr. Link can "frolic in the snow with huge, hairy ape-men," to which Mr. Link replies with a sigh, "Oh boy, a guy can dream."
Lionel insists on dressing Mr. Link, in part to fit in and in part because he's conscious that the Sasquatch is naked. Lionel makes a quip about Mr. Link's nipples at one point.
The film opens with Lionel and a servant named Mr. Lint trying to get a photograph of the Loch Ness monster. Nessie obligingly shows up and nearly eats poor Mr. Lint, who decides he's had enough. As he's leaving, Lionel implores, "Do stay, Mr. Lint. I'll make absolutely sure you don't get eaten again." Mr. Lint replies wearily, "You said that last time," and leaves.
Indeed, mostly slapstick violence pervades much of the story. There's a huge bar brawl. Someone gets kicked by a horse. One character is hit in the head and knocked out. Willard Stenk shoots at Mr. Link, Lionel and Adelina. He comes after them with an ax as well on a ship amid a storm, with Adelina dangling in peril. (He briefly holds her hostage, too). Lionel steps on a number of men's heads while running. Someone gets hit in the crotch. Another person waves a gun around recklessly while pointing with it, causing alarm among others in the room. Lionel gets smacked by a tree limb.
Stenk brags that he's "butchered every rare creature from here to Borneo," and telling, claw-like scars across the back of his head suggest not all of those encounters went smoothly. We learn that Lord Piggot-Dunceby has paid him $347 to kill Lionel.
A perilous moment involves several people hanging above a gorge from a deteriorating icicle. One character falls into the void, apparently to his doom.
Crude or Profane Language
The closest we get to profanity is one unfinished use of the phrase, "Smells like s—." Someone also mentions "poop." We may hear one muffled exclamation of "oh my god." Someone may use the British vulgarity "bugger."
Other outbursts are milder, such as "fiddlesticks," "bummer," "poppycock," "blast," "oh my goodness," "shoot" and "gosh."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Lionel and Adelina share a meal where they drink wine. We see various patrons drinking in a saloon. Lionel describes Adelina as a "vibrant, spirited, intoxicating woman."
Other Negative Elements
A man's pants in a saloon don't quite cover his backside. Someone's underwear is said to be inside out.
Lionel and Mr. Link try to steal the map from Adelina before consenting to have her join them on their expedition.
Link eats a piece of yak dung (without knowing it) and gushes about how great it tastes.
[Spoiler Warning] Link receives a sad, chilly welcome from the yeti queen and her people. They deride him as a "country-cousin redneck," and tell him bluntly, "There is no place for you here. … Keep out, we hate you."
In some significant ways, Missing Link is a delightful animated adventure. Sir Lionel Frost is challenged to confront his selfishness and narcissism as he helps his new Sasquatch friend. And Mr. Link comes to the hard-but-important realization that sometimes your best friends actually don't look like you at all. Those lessons are both packaged within an engaging, winsome tale that feels refreshingly original.
But this rollicking, stop-motion lark still has some subtle issues that parents need to be aware of as well. Lionel, the hero, embraces evolution wholeheartedly. Meanwhile, one of the movie's main villains seems to represent those who believe in God.
As for Mr. Link, well, some odd-but-undeniable moments seem to wink at the creature's effeminate predilections. Is it funny when a Sasquatch renames himself Susan? Sure. Is there another message here that goes deeper than the yuks his new name will likely provoke, especially among children? I suspect there is.
These concerns are admittedly pretty low key, and they may fly right over most kids' heads. Young viewers are much more likely to laugh at Mr. Link accidentally eating tasty yak dung or guffaw at the guy with a bit of backside poking out of his pants.
Does this feel-good comedy have you struggling for words regarding evolution? Here are some other resources that might help bring light to the conversation:
Equipping Kids to Defend the Bible: Answers to Common Questions
Icons of Evolution: Finch Beaks
Dinosaurs for Kids
Evolution: The Grand Experiment Vol. 1