From 1900 to the first photographed black hole, from White men ruling the nation to women finally being allowed to serve as police officers, political correctness seems to get the better of our crazy nature, to the extent where a perfectly healthy desire to achieve equal rights becomes our greatest poison. Missing Link tries to fill those gaps between 100 years ago and now with its best intentions at heart, but ultimately doesn’t get most of anything right. No proper insight exposes what anybody thinks about anything, not even a view of the Statue of Liberty under construction, which is there for no reason besides to look pretty.
This story remains completely typical as it replicates beat-by-beat the unemotional American love story—where the girl at first hates the boy but then she changes after accepting his immaturity. This “boy” is actually a well-dressed grown gentleman named Lionel, one who isn’t ashamed to join in on a fiddle-and-string saloon bar fight during his glossed-over travels to the United States. Lionel’s story really isn’t worth exploring anyway, since in his first scene, he seems unfazed when a prehistoric lake monster drags his colleague underwater, automatically making him a jerk not worthy of sympathy.
These childish characters go through absolutely no change by the end, particularly Lionel’s passive co-lead, the legendary sasquatch. Despite being the last of his kind in a disappearing home, the big-footed beast never gives the viewer a reason to care about their journey to the Himalayas. It’s not charming when they ride on a negatively depicted Indian transportation vehicle (saddle and elephant), it’s not hot with high stakes when a one-dimensional villain tries to stop them for money, it merely settles for getting the job done.
Although production designer Lou Romano (The Incredibles) still reflects reluctant old, old tribal art styles in the colorful set pieces. Right from the opening shot of a bare snow footprint that transitions into a shoe-bearing human footprint, Romano keeps feet a consistent metaphor. There’s a huge castle that is framed to compensate for the tonal coldness as it triggers acrophobia icier than a grassy civilization, and there’s Lionel running on the walls of a boat as it scales ninety degrees up a wave. Director Chris Butler (ParaNorman) knows how to combine the ancient craft of making figurine dolls with modern technology to tell stories in a way inspired off centuries-old traditions.
Now, it’s time to highlight the film’s biggest laugh beyond a photorealistic bird’s-eye desert sea view: It’s Ching Valdes-Aran, the best voice actor in the cast, who voices a confused, quiet old lady named Gamu. Especially when she shrieks, the reason is strong enough of a joke, but her delivery of that shriek makes the final punch complete. Valdes-Aran is not the only one whose voice connects perfectly to the puppet eyes, everyone in the cast does all that they can to attempt a full experience in spite of the dreadful script. It results in some really funny moments, including why one character is named “Susan,” and why that name connects to the literal thought process of the big orange behemoth. It’s nothing special or memorable, but most certainly gets the chuckle going.
The laughs aren’t enough though; it would be much funnier with a logical explanation as to why Mr. Sasquatch speaks and reads perfect English, aside from just being around humans all the time. Not to mention the disguise Lionel dresses him up in has the buttons bursting at the seams, yet nobody notices. The comedy would also ring truer if there were more prevalent questions addressed beyond just the third scene about the authenticity of evolution.
The distance from reality results in another core of humanity this film wrongfully ignores: religion. One just can’t talk about the missing links between man and ape without bringing Christianity, Science, or Christian Science into it as well. Instead of something that deserves a watch and rewatch, this widely atheistic story about White folk centers around typical tropes, those that would no longer become clichés if there were just more philosophical concepts brought up for the audience to ponder over. That goes as well to its lack of international representation, which seems to have low priority to the designs of bug-eyed seagulls with unrealistically oversized heads.
For a different cinematic experience that attempts to spark our fear of vulnerability, but actually succeeds, then watch Us, which is so far the best movie of 2019 for confronting our national fear. It’s even better to go off away from all civilization to hang out with the penguins in Antarctica, kind of like what Disney’s latest documentary filmmakers just did. Now there’s another worthwhile cinematic experience which deserves more attention than a stop-motion letdown like Missing Link!
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Debruge, Peter. “Film Review: ‘Missing Link’.” Digital image. Variety. WordPress, 2 Apr 2019. Web. <https://variety.com/2019/film/reviews/missing-link-review-1203177518/>.
Missing Link. Powster. Web. <https://www.missinglink.movie/>.