When “Searching” was released in 2018, it made a little noise at the box office. Some moviegoers were intrigued by its unique, but faulty, point of view. A dad (John Cho) uses his missing daughter’s computer webcam to try and track her down. Nearly the entire movie takes place on this screen, with various windows popping-up of all the different websites, apps and video chat services used to find her.
I didn’t hate “Searching”, but many of its story elements had major flaws. And the webcam gimmick was quite distracting.
Now, four-and-a-half years later, comes the follow-up, “Missing”. This time it’s a teenage daughter looking for her mom, who doesn’t return home following a vacation to Colombia with her new boyfriend. 18-year-old June (“A Wrinkle in Time”’s Storm Reid) uses her laptop, phone, a smart watch and human connections in an effort to locate her mother Grace (played by Nia Long).
Since “Searching” came out, there has been a rise in popularity of true crime TV docuseries/reenactments and podcasts. “Missing” plays off of the genre — not using it cleverly for smart commentary, but hitting us over the head in the most obvious ways.
The screenplay, from directors Nick Johnson and Will Merrick, does make a few solid points on the ease in which someone can access others’ personal information, how quickly the media grabs (and twists) a narrative, and the frustrations young (and older) people face in dealing with modern technology.
But for the most part, “Missing” is standard stuff. There’s an abundance of conveniences which undermine the intended surprises, and the third act is shockingly basic with several laughable moments. Most of the “twists and turns” (which the directors and Reid begged viewers at the preview screening I attended — via taped messages — not to share). But it’s important to have a story with a foundation that works before messing with it, and “Missing” lacks one. The emotionally intense scenes just don’t feel genuine — and the bad score doesn’t help.
The most interesting character and best performance comes from Joaquim de Almeida (“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” and “Our Brand Is Crisis”) as Javi, a Colombian resident who helps June from long distance via WhatsApp. He gives the film a smidge of legitimate depth, though not enough for an overall recommendation.
You won’t be missing-out on much by missing “Missing”.