The Missing Link (2019) – Review

You can discover The Missing Link in theaters on April 12th.

[Ed. Note: Being that TV and City is on a bit of a hiatus, this article has not been edited.]

By David Cuevas

We live in a time when most modernized children’s entertainment obnoxiously panders in order to fulfill a certain monetary gain. This gain could come in the form of merchandise, ticket sales, or even the simple purchase of the property itself. However, there are a couple remaining studios that continuously create films that avoid these trends in order to serve its audiences with the most valuable thing of all: quality cinema. If you’ve been living under an animation rock for the last decade, Laika Studios may just be the greatest animation household for Stopframe animation, EVER. As much as I appreciate Aardman, their more recent material doesn’t hold a candle compared to Laika’s commissioned and feature-length work. What could be best described as another leap forward for the studio, Missing Link is another home run, albeit some strenuous narrative complications.

Surprisingly enough, all of Laika’s films, in my humble opinion, are ranked from greatest to worst by their release. From Coraline (masterpiece) to the latest film in their canon the Missing Link (really good), it’s almost shocking to see a studio decline their films in quality with each consecutive release. That’s not saying that Missing Link is bad or anything. In fact, it’s a sweet charming little adventure that takes some unique risks in comparison with most CGI-generated branded commercialized schlock. What’s really concerning at the end of the day, is the fact that you can’t predict where the studio might go next. With five features in, without a single female director or person of color working as the head lead in sight, I believe it’s time for Laika to move forward and find new voices to continue the legacy of the stop frame medium. As for the Missing Link, it’s safe to say, while it may not be one of Laika’s greatest films yet, it’s certainly remarkable how something this unfiltered managed to enchant audiences and critics alike.

The most comforting aspect of the Missing Link is its artistic risks, more so in humor and narrative tension. There are legitimate stakes presented here, where main characters could plummet to their demise at any given time. The world Chris Knight (the director of the film) created can be best described as a dangerous victorian fever dream, an inspired choice that gives access to a whole load of set pieces and devices that add consequence to the characters actions. Alongside its certain tense moments, with an example being the final action set piece which occurs during its climactic finale, where the end result feels as sharp as an ice pick, the humor presented in the Missing Link also feels shameless. Unlike most family films, which largely resort to reference humor that most often make its viewers cringe, the Missing Link doesn’t rely on any of those terrible elements. Instead, it uses genuine setups and payoffs to jokes and brief physical gags, that feel natural, and most importantly, remains consistent with the film’s narrative.

While certainly more juvenile in comparison with Laika’s previous work, the Missing Link is pure family fun at it’s least obnoxious. While it does feel a little too similar to previous animated properties such as last year’s Smallfoot, Laika makes up for what could become a tonally confused mess by taking some artistic risks in order to preserve their creation. Missing Link may just be the last film in the extinct race of pure family flicks. It was nice meeting you Susan while it lasted.

I give The Missing Link a B+.

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