Perfectly charming and, as ever, exquisitely animated, the latest offering from Laika Studios (“Kubo And The Two Strings”, “The Boxtrolls”) is nonetheless feels like the lesser of their efforts so far. While it’s acknowledged inspirations include “Raiders Of The Lost Ark” and the stories of Sherlock Holmes, there’s no escaping it’s an almost complete lift from Jules Verne’s globetrotting adventure “Around The World In Eighty Days”, against which it struggles to find anything really new to say.
Amateur cryptozoologist Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) yearns to be accepted by the stuffy and staid Explorers Society ruled with an iron-moustached stiff-upper-lip by Lord Piggot-Dunceby (Stephen Fry). To this end, he makes a wager that he can prove the existence of a missing link between man and beast and sets out to the Pacific North West in search of the legendary Sasquatch.
What follows is an easy going, achingly beautifully animated tale of self-discovery and self-growth as Frost learns to be a better man and the Sasquatch learns to be a more self-actualised Susan. Along the way, they team up with the widow of Frost’s friend (and ex-paramour of Frost himself) Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana) who helps the mismatched pair to find their true friendship.
There’s plenty of gentle fun along the journey but, despite the predations of Piggot-Dunceby’s hired thug Willard Stenk (Timothy Olyphant) there’s never any sense of real peril and the reunion with the Himalayan yetis (low-key portrayed as literal white supremacists) is anticlimactic, with an action set-piece on an ice bridge feeling like a cheat thanks to the ways its cut, not to mention it being incongruously violent.
It’s a perfectly pleasant but unremarkable movie in its story. The care, craftsmanship and attention to detail in the stop motion animation, though, remains as fascinating and beguiling as ever but when the ‘making of’ footage trumps the finished product in terms of attraction, awe and entertainment, something’s gone a bit awry.