Compared to animation giants like Disney and Pixar, Laika is very young and inexperienced. Founded only 10 years ago, their films are mostly a very stylized form of stop-motion animation. However, their films are also consistently well done. I was especially blown away by their debut feature, Coraline, earning Laika their first Oscar nomination. Paranorman is also enjoyable and did well. I feel that their latest feature, The Boxtrolls is the studio’s most daring film yet.
In the town of Cheesebridge, a boy known as Eggs is raised by the mysterious Boxtrolls. The townspeople are led to believe that the Boxtrolls are terrible thieving creatures that steal babies in the night. However, the Boxtrolls are gentle beings that only take trash and use what they find to fix things in their sprawling home under the town. One night, Eggs’ surrogate father, Fish, is taken by the power-hungry exterminator, Archibald Snatcher (voiced by Ben Kingsley). Eggs ventures to the surface to save Fish, makes a new friend and exposes Snatcher for the villain he is to the whole town.
Storywise, The Boxtrolls is very strange yet fascinating. There is a hierarchy Snatcher is trying to climb by ridding the town of Boxtrolls where he will be rewarded with a respectable white hat and cheese tasting parties. And cheese is weirdly important to Cheesebridge, so much so that the citizens would rather have a giant fancy new wheel of it than a children’s hospital and certain people with severe allergies choose to ignore them. But I digress, there’s more than cheese at play here… There’s jelly as well.
What I liked most about The Boxtrolls, as I do with all of Laika’s films to date, is the visual style. It’s not exactly pretty, yet could not take my eyes away. Cheesebridge above ground has a Victorian feel, with their characters being more stiff and proper. Down in the Boxtrolls’ lair things are more haphazard, fun and colorful. The way the Boxtrolls are so inventive and mechanically minded gives them a steampunk feel, outlined in cardboard. I believe the unique visual and animation style is what landed The Boxtrolls their Oscar nomination for best animated feature.
Overall, The Boxtrolls is a fine film, though many might find it strange. Those hoping for a glossy kiddie movie with cheery Disney tones should look elsewhere. The Boxtrolls rises above the cutesy fray and gets kinda gross and slightly scary for little ones. But for those who enjoy a good animated film, especially stop-motion animation, check this one out and give it a chance. And for an extra treat in how involved this style of animation is, stay until after the credits. You might be pleasantly surprised.
“Someone’s got the cheese fits again.”