In Missing Link, the new children’s film from the animation studio Laika, we open in 19th-century London, where Sir Lionel Frost fancies himself a great adventurer, but isn’t taken seriously by his peers. Frost determines that to gain their acceptance he must find incontrovertible evidence of some mythological animal, and heads off in search of the elusive sasquatch. And find the sasquatch he does, though it’s hardly the “beast” he expects.
It turns out to speak English, it’s quite friendly though incredibly naïve, and it’s desperately lonely. The sasquatch agrees to provide Frost with proof of its existence, in return for help getting to the Himalayas, where tales of the Yeti have the creature believing it might finally find a place where it belongs.
I need to acknowledge that my expectations got the better of me regarding Missing Link, which I wish were not true. Laika’s previous movie, Kubo and the Two Strings, was so astounding I was excited to see what they’d come up with. And, this time, they simply weren’t as ambitious. Which is absolutely fine! But also, I’m human, and I wanted more. The movie is cute, reasonably funny (if repetitious), has a perfectly good moral, and interestingly deals quite subtly with complex contemporary issues like climate change and gender identity. But, still, I was unreasonably hoping to be awed, and I wasn’t.
That said, the animation is beautiful. Laika uses almost entirely actual, physical figures and sets, rather than computers, and seeing the real textures and colors they achieve is invigorating. Few others are working in this way, and it’s something to be treasured.
Missing Link doesn’t insult kids’ intelligence, which is rare and valuable, and my reaction probably says more about me than it does about the movie. It’s a sweet, modest, diversion, and a delight for the eyes, and maybe that’s enough.