Missing Link does enough to satisfy what any family wants in an animated film: keep both the kids and the parents entertained.
When the Golden Globes aired recently in early January, the majority of the categories felt up-in-the-air. Pundits struggled to predict the likes of Best Director, Best Drama, Best Actor, and even Best Supporting Actress as the race heats up the closer we get to Oscar nominations coming on January 13. Besides the win for 1917 as Best Drama, the biggest surprise of the night came in a category most didn’t even consider: Best Animated Feature Film.
Though 2019 happened to be one of the weaker years for animation, some heavy hitters still filled up the category, including the catchy Frozen II, the perennial favorite Toy Story 4, and even Disney’s The Lion King. Out of nowhere, production company LAIKA got a huge win, with their film Missing Link, a stop-motion animation about a world traveler who combines with a Sasquatch to go find his Yeti cousins.
To some, Missing Link looks like a disaster, a film costing $100 million to make yet yielding a little over $26 million in the box office, losing LAIKA much more than a few dollars. The film’s win gives the production company a huge boost, especially for its Oscar campaign in the coming weeks. Missing Link can say that it’s the proud winner of a Golden Globe, an award with prestige regardless of the many and valid critics of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
Here’s the deal. Missing Link is tons of fun. The voice acting shines with Hugh Jackman and Zach Galifianakis leading the way. The animation looks intricate and gorgeous, as writer/director Chris Butler builds an entire world full of specific characters with good-enough backstories and a villain you truly love to hate.
Butler’s film works best when you’re running alongside its heroes, feeling the ups and downs of the Sasquatch Mr. Link, as he chooses his new name to be Susan and rarely keeps his emotions in check. We watch a transformation for adventurer Sir Lionel Frost (Jackman) as he grows into a person we admire, rather than admonish. The meticulous care of stop-motion breathes fresh life into an aspect of film that has been cornered by Pixar for the last two decades.
If anything, Butler proves that Sasquatches can be quite lovable, following a line of larger-than-life animated characters that grab our hearts with earnest optimism. From Monster Inc with Sully to Big Hero 6 with Baymax to the more recent Ralph Breaks the Internet with Ralph, the tender teddy-bear has been recycled over and over again. Due to the feverish, heartfelt nature of Galifianakis’ portrayal of Mr. Link and Butler’s simple storytelling, this trope feels reinvented, even if it’s just for 90 minutes.
Though Missing Link doesn’t create a new wheel, it paints the spokes with radiant colors, giving parents and children alike a film that can bring low-stakes joy. You never feel too worried about their journey and you never actually believe that these adventurers will lose one another, regardless of how dire the circumstances become. This type of low-stakes enjoyment should not be understated or undersold, though. It contains legitimate and unbridled value.
If Butler’s film can ride this tidal wave of critical acclaim and Golden Globes excitement, an Oscar nomination might be in order. And just maybe, Missing Link will surprise the world once again with a win on film’s biggest stage.
Based in Brooklyn, NY, Michael is a regular critic for Ready Steady Cut and also writes for Cinema Sentries, The Film Experience and Film Inquiry.