PG, but for family-friendly action. The protagonist is a cryptozoologist who has a hankerin' for fighting scary monsters. As such, there's some stuff that little kids could find a little scary. I mean, I laughed pretty hard, but I was also terrified that my kids were going to run out of the room. There's gunplay and I suppose, human being die in horrible situations. But they're all made of toys and clay. It's not like we're watching bloody stumps on these characters. But it's meant to be a little frightening, so keep that in mind. There's some mildly crude humor on top of that, but nothing to write home about.
DIRECTOR: Chris Butler
The few times that I can watch Academy Award nominees in front of my kids seem to be in the animated feature category. I have a big question before I get into Missing Link. Not to say that Missing Link is a bad movie, but where's Frozen 2 on the nominations? As a guy who enjoyed the movie, despite some small faults, it is pretty clear that Frozen 2 is far and away the strongest film of the bunch. Again, this isn't meant to cast aspersions on Missing Link or even the other movies, but the quality of Frozen 2 is something that was just on a different level from the rest of the movies on that list. It's really weird. The only thing that Frozen 2 has is Original Song for "Into the Unknown." Great, what about the rest of the movie?
Okay, so far I haven't been overly impressed by the animated outings that have been part of the Academy Award nominees. But I can also say that, so far, Missing Link is probably the best of a so-so bunch. I adore Laika. I don't really have time to read my analysis of Kubo and the Two Strings, but I know that there was something really gorgeous going on there. Missing Link has the same style of art, but there's something missing that Kubo offered from this movie. Perhaps it is the setting coupled with a so-so storyline, but Missing Link is a tale that has merit when it comes to short films, but doesn't really hold a lot of water as a feature length film.
I guess my contrast to Frozen II makes a little bit of sense. If you read what I wrote, I acknowledge that the film isn't perfect. But what Frozen II offers that Missing Link doesn't is something new. As much as I liked Missing Link, it really runs the formula down pretty hard. We're touching on the same themes seen in Shrek and countless other movies. There are just so many beats that are covered that Missing Link is just the flavor of the moment. Honestly, if Harry and the Hendersons could talk, that would be Missing Link. I don't know how many times we have to befriend the strange cryptozoological creature only to find out that he has more heart than the rest of us. ET? Mac and Me? The Shape of Water? Okay, The Shape of Water is definitely not a kids' story, but you get my point.
But I still have to look at it as a film by itself. It's hard to divorce the stuff that came before it because I really want this movie to be great. Laika's reputation for being original is kind of at risk. The parts that even deviated from the ET formula picked up threads from Uncharted 2. It's a bunch of things kind of thrown together. The really original concept in the film is not having Frost and Adelina Fortnight end up together. I kind of want to explore that as a choice, especially considering that the rest of the movie doesn't really have the guts that the lack of relationship had. I know that my wife would completely disagree with me, but it's a bold choice that I kind of support. (Again, I wish the entire movie set up for that, but I digress.)
It is odd that a male protagonist and a supporting female protagonist have to get together in the end of a comedy to make the movie make sense. While Missing Link doesn't spell it out, it makes perfect sense that Adelina doesn't go for Frost, despite the fact that his character evolves from the beginning of the film to match her moral code. Adelina is a recent widow. She's a REALLY recent widow. Frost was friends with the deceased. He didn't go the funeral. The only reason that there would be a relationship between Frost and Fortnight would be because of an adventure, an adventure where they didn't get along for a lot of it. I can't believe that I'm arguing the nuanced romantic message of Speed and Speed 2: Cruise Control, but the movie kind of has a point. These two don't really belong together. While the film isn't about mourning in any way, shape, or form, the character is in a place where she shouldn't be in a relationship. And why do two people have to be together simply because they are in the same movie.
Mr. Link confuses me. I know. That was a hard right turn out of nowhere, but the film needs me to talk about this character, so I just do it. Mr. Link's knowledge of the world is really sporadic. I'm going to give props to Zach Galifianakis for not being the same character he always is. It's really weird that he did this movie, but I'm going to sidestep that entire idea right now in the hopes to talk about the inconsistencies of the character. It's a really fun idea that Mr. Link talks fluently and with a vernacular that can only be described as contemporary. Okay, that makes the movie funny. But what Link does and doesn't know doesn't necessarily make a ton of sense. I, too, feel uncomfortable commenting on a children's movie that is built upon delivering as many of the funny ha-has that it intends, but Link's skills don't make sense. There are times where he's really on board with slang and cultural norms. But when the movie is meant to be funny, Link has no idea what is appropriate. Yeah, it made me giggle, but it also made it extremely hard to treat Link like a character. It's a parallel idea to Drax from the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. But Drax at least makes a little bit more sense with his very specific knowledge base. Mr. Link is all over the place and it makes it really hard to sympathize with him at times.
There's this message running through the movie that is supposed to be the moral of the story, but I don't really know if the film sells it very well. Frost is meant to be seen as an opportunist. He wants desperately to be in this club that no one wants him in, so he promises to bring back evidence of the Bigfoot. The movie wants us to criticize him for his selfish ambition, but his desires don't really hurt anyone. Mr. Link never really seems to be bothered by Frost's quest for fame and power. There's never really a division between these two characters that would demand a need for reconciliation. Frost's growth that Adalina observes is simply momentary. She comments on his evolution as a character, but there wasn't much for him to actually feel sorry for. His most abominable (pun intended) behavior comes from Frost's desire to steal the map from a grieving widow. But there's never really that moment where Frost is going to torture Link or capture him for personal gain. Instead, Frost agrees quite readily to help Link find other yetis. Why is that so bad? Yeah, he's getting something out of it, but he never really hides that fact from Link. We're told that Frost is kind of scummy; hence, he is scummy. But he seems like kind of an okay dude who is just following his dreams.
I will always find Laika movies impressive. Missing Link is no exception. But considering how much effort goes into physically making these kinds of movies, you would think that the movie would really nail the script before all of that effort is put into making the the animation so impressive. America and the Old West are kind of boring to animate and Shangri-La doesn't exactly sell itself in terms of plot like it should. Perhaps that's nitpicky, but it also doesn't really have the same punching power as the rest of the films in that series. It's a fine movie that relies too much on formula to stand, which is a bummer.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.