There’s no greater fear of what you don’t see as opposed to something that could be seen like birds or spiders. This is especially evident in childhood where anything could be real. Without a full understanding of the way the world works, it was possible to look away and imagine a creature of unspeakable nature, sneaking in a quiet whoosh as it plots to eat you or steal your shoes. What get’s most children in this mindset that it could be anything that’s out to get them; a goblin, witches, monsters, or even the things that you would never suspect as evident.
For something like The Boxtrolls to take empty boxes and make it into something that people would fear, I seriously have to give it a ton of points for creativity. Connecting this to something like Toy Story or The Brave Little Toaster takes it all back to the notion that every object has a purpose. The purpose of a box is to contain anything and ensure that it remains safe from outside forces. The monsters here not only use cardboard boxes to hide from humans, but wear them as their clothes, so placing themselves in the real world would be easy, and give them a reason for people to fear them.
The Boxtrolls is the latest stop motion animation film from the Oregon based studio, Laika, the same people behind Coraline and ParaNorman. I had enjoyed the previous films and I knew I was in for a fun experience, all exposed in beautiful hand crafted imagery that we don’t see enough off.
The story brings us to the town of Cheesebridge, where little Boxtrolls come out at night to take things from the garbage and look for food. Common prejudices have developed the idea that the creatures steel children and eat them after an incident where a little boy was taken. To ensure safety, Archibald Snatcher (played by Ben Kingsley) offers to exterminate them all in exchange for future membership in a white hat club where the finest cheese tasters dine.
What people don’t understand is that the boy taken, now age ten with the name Eggs, was rescued and knows that the creatures would never hurt a fly. More trolls get taken in the night, even Eggs’ closest friend Fish. He receives help from a girl Winnie (played by Elle Fanning) who’s curious about monsters. She gives him the proper gentlemen education and calls that he present his case to her father who could save the creatures.
In the middle of a pool of animated movies that chose to look as realistic as possible, it’s still nice to know that movies like The Boxtrolls exist. The old fashioned look allows it’s creative world to come alive, looking even better then the computer animation that dominates the industry. I have a feeling that kids like to be scared and will be sucked into this place, as they did with Coraline and ParaNorman.
I can’t go as far to say that The Boxtrolls is Laika’s best work. It takes plenty of time establishing it’s world before getting into a story that typically moves the movie forward. It’s not a bad thing, but a few minutes trimmed wouldn’t have been a bad idea. The main boy Eggs, while not a bad character, he’s a typical feral child, feels a tad bland compared the quirky characters we’ve seen in Laika’s other work. The other characters have their moments with Winnie being somewhat of a tomboy but knowing how to be a lady and her father being the pompous aristocrat that needs to make an image of himself. The Boxtrolls themselves remind me of the Gremlins from the 1980’s, with their playful attitude as the scurry within the shadows. Archibald Snatcher is my favorite, being deliciously evil with a voice like Ben Kinsley’s that makes him so.
I’ll give this four and a half Boxtrolls out of five. Seeing companies like Laika make me glad that there are people out there looking to make a difference in how animation can be viewed. I would see The Boxtrolls again, just to give this company leverage to continue making movies.