This has been a strong year for Netflix Original movies. However, while The Irishman and Marriage Story have captured most people’s attention, Klaus has bubbled under the radar, begging to be discovered. The Sergio Pablos-directed effort is essentially a Santa Claus origins story that’s rooted in reality, inspired by Scandinavian culture and history. The plot follows a lazy postman and the eponymous character, who team up to bring joy to the children of Smeerenburg, a joyless town that’s divided by gang warfare. To bring Klaus to life, the creators combined hand-drawn 2D animation with cutting-edge lighting and texturing technology, which gives the film a look that’s simultaneously traditional and modern. The movie almost resembles a storybook, which only adds to its charm.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Even though these movies have some found box office success and heaps of critical acclaim, How to Train Your Dragon doesn’t always get the credit it deserves as one of the best animated sagas out there. The series started life as an underdog competing against popular IPs, but over the course of three films, it became one of the strongest animated franchises of all time. The third installment wrapped up a journey that’s been carefully plotted since the first movie hit screens back in 2010, and the creators desire to tell a longform story shows here. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World expands the scope and mythology of this world, while adding more complexities and depth to the characters for a payoff that’s emotionally genuine and thoroughly rewarding.
Missing Link is the second movie on this list to center around a sasquatch’s journey to find its kin, and it’s also one of 2019’s loveliest cinematic treats. In addition to being a top-notch stop motion feature, Laika’s latest is also a fantastic action movie, with some thrilling chase scenes that really bring a sense of energy to the spirited adventure. Chris Butler drew upon a wide range of influences while helming Missing Link, including Indiana Jones, Sherlock Holmes, and Plains, Trains, and Automobiles. This mish-mash of inspirations, however, makes for a fun-for-all-ages romp that delivers a globetrotting adventure while promoting themes such as friendship and helping those in need. This is Laika’s most outright fun film to date, and I hope the studio makes more movies like it going forward.
Toy Story 4
While this sequel felt completely unnecessary upon release, it’s still a strong entry in the series that almost lives up to the quality of the films that came before it. The original trilogy is special because it resonates with kids and adults alike, capturing the journey of growing up with an emotional honesty that most human beings can relate to. In those movies, however, the existence of the toys is bound to Andy. Toy Story 4, meanwhile, is the first movie in the series to be completely about the toys themselves, as they come to terms with their existence as obsolete objects while trying to find a renewed sense of purpose. Maybe the sequel wasn’t needed, but it’s still a worthwhile addition to the saga that explores some thought-provoking existential ideas, while retaining the heart, humor, horror, and magic that’s made these movies so appealing for over 20 years.
I Lost My Body
As evidenced by movies like Evil Dead II and Idle Hands, severed hands on the screen have a history of causing mayhem for people. Jérémy Clapin‘s I Lost My Body flips this idea on its head, though, by creating a story about a reanimated body part that touches the soul. The story takes place in the streets of Paris, where dangerous rats and busy crowds roam and follows an autonomous hand as it scurries around like a scared animal, trying to survive in a bid to become reunited with its owner. Based on the book Happy Hand by Guillaume Laurant (who was Oscar-nominated for his script work on Amélie), I Lost My Body is a story about a man’s quest to become whole again, both physically and figuratively. Flashback scenes featuring the hand’s owner reveal a character who has loved, lost, and longs for something more. The film also incorporates 2D and 3D animation to great effect, creating rich textures that complement these tender emotional themes.