In an effort to cover all of my bases when it comes time for awards season, I have to watch a few animated features that will be nominated. Up to this point I had not watched any so, after looking at “top movies of the year” lists I added Missing Link to my hit list.
Missing Link is a stop-motion film written and directed by Chris Butler. Butler wrote and directed ParaNorman which was nominated for the Best animated film Oscar in 2013 and he also wrote Kubo and the Two Strings which was nominated for an Oscar in 2016. If you’re following the pattern, you’ll catch that Butler has been associated with an animated feature nominee every 3 years and that pattern will likely continue with this film.
Missing Link was interesting. It almost didn’t feel like a children’s movie at times and has a lot of violence, specifically gun violence. There was a political message about the elite, racism, and sexism and a very progressive moment at the end. There is also a strong message for kids though.
As I mentioned, Missing Link is a stop-motion film. The genre has come a long way over the years, almost to the point where you can tell they aren’t drawn but may not be completely sure it’s stop-motion. The characters’ bodies are not proportionate (stick legs and large torsos) and some features are exaggerated.
I don’t want to spend too much time on this but did want to make sure your expectations are set appropriately.
The main thing I noticed about Missing Link was the many prevalent adult themes. Now perhaps I just notice these things now because I’m an adult, and perhaps I wouldn’t have noticed them as a kid, but I did notice them. They’re the reason for the title of this review.
The first thing I noticed right from the start was the violence. The film begins with our main character, Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman,) is hunting for the Loch Ness Monster. In this hunt his sidekick Lemuel Lint (David Walliams) is attacked by Nessie and pulled underwater. This is complete with a chase and Nessie looms over their tiny boat. Now as an adult this didn’t scare me but with my knowledge of kids, this scene could have been pretty intense.
Later in the movie guns become a huge deal. Throughout most of the movie, Sir Lionel Frost is being pursued by a “thug” with a gun. There are a few shootouts, there’s a bar brawl, and there’s a fight where an ax becomes involved. Violence is prevalent throughout the film.
There’s also some very brief sexual innuendo.
Again, as a grown man this wasn’t a big deal to me. However, if you’re a parent reading this to see if you should watch with your kids I wanted to point out the things that may make you hesitate depending on your parenting style.
Messages adults will catch
One of the earlier messages that I caught early on was one of class and elitism. Sir Frost is desperate to be accepted by an elite hunting club. The club is comprised of stuffy older white males of course and they don’t think he belongs among them.
Frost makes a deal with the leader of the group, Lord Piggot-Dunceby (Stephen Fry) that if he can catch Sasquatch they have to let him in. After Frost leaves, Piggot Dunceby gives a speech about how he can’t have Frost getting in because once guys like him are in there’s no telling who else will get in and there won’t be space for men like him. This hit home with me because of the currently political environment in some of the Eurocentric countries (including America) where the long-time majority population feels that they are losing their stronghold and are lashing out. It was interesting to see this in a children’s movie though it would definitely go over small kids’ heads.
On top of this, what kids might notice is that he’s talking about how horrible these outsiders are while being absolutely horrible himself. He’s shown us through what he’s done up to that point as well as what he’s doing while giving the speech. Even if kids won’t get the real world correlation they’ll get the irony here.
Message for kids
Most good children’s movies have something for the parents and something for the kids. Missing Link is no different and there is definitely a message to take away for the younger audience as well.
I mentioned that Sir Frost is fighting to be accepted into this elite club but Mr. Link (Zach Galifianakis) is also looking for a home. He’s the last of his kind and he wants to be welcomed into another Bigfoot society. The fact that the two of them are in similar positions isn’t obvious until it is and by the end the message is clear. You shouldn’t have to beg to be accepted, you’ll find your tribe by being yourself.
I enjoyed Missing Link. It wasn’t overly funny or overly deep but it’s a fun movie. I liked the messaging as well, both for adults and for kids, and it feels like a safe family friendly movie with some bite.
I do need to watch more animated movies (I expect Toy Story 4 will try its best to make me cry) but Missing Link was a fun first choice.
I wasn’t sure where to fit this in but did want to mention it. Zoe Saldana’s character, Adelina Fortnight, is introduced as a former love interest of Mr. Frost. When we first see her it’s clear that she’ll end up falling back in love with Frost by the end of the movie. However as the movie is wrapping up and we reach this moment, Missing Link goes in a very different and very powerful direction. It’s something that I can’t recall seeing in a children’s movie or many adult movies really and it was nice to see here.
I may have hinted at what happened but didn’t want to say it flat out. It was very refreshing and did boost my feelings about the film overall.