Laika, the studio behind “Coraline” and “Paranorman”, is back with a new offering, “The Boxtrolls”. With their traditional stop motion animation and German Expression-influenced gothic aesthetic, Laika has become a studio whose works are instantly recognisable, standing out in the crowded field of animated movies that vie for our eyeballs each year. “The Boxtrolls” doesn’t stray far from what they’ve done so far, the detailed backgrounds, the grotesque and highly exaggerated looking characters they’ve become famous for are all still present.
What’s it about
The movie’s plot revolves around Eggs (newcomer Isaac Hempstead-Wright), an orphan raised by the underground dwelling troll-looking creatures that the movie is named after. He’s named Eggs because of the box he wears, an egg box. His Boxtroll friends are similarly named – some of which include Fish, Wheels, Bucket, Fragile and Shoe. Eggs and the Boxtrolls are tormented by Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley), a pest exterminator. The gentle and harmless Boxtrolls are made out to be monsters by Snatcher, who starts capturing them in order to impress the Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris), the leader White Hats, a group of social elites in the town. Snatcher hopes that he’ll eventually get his own white hat and join the elites at one of their cheese eating sessions. The hunt for the Boxtrolls leads Eggs into contact with Winnie, Lord Portley-Rind’s oft-neglected daughter, who becomes an unlikely ally for the Boxtrolls.
What we love
Unique Looking: Visually, the film is already in a league of its own. While the designs of the characters and the Boxtrolls don’t particularly fit in line with the conventional definition of attractive or cute for young children, they’re unique enough to make it rather hard to take your eyes off them.
Well developed characters: Once that’s accomplished, Laika simply allows their characters to take over. Just like their visual style, their characters are filled with quirks. Just about every major and supporting character manages to get their time in the spotlight, even the supporting ones. Oh, and those Boxtrolls are pretty cute too.
Wide Spectrum of Laughs: Perhaps the most striking thing about this movie is the level of humour in it. Compared to the two previous films that Laika have produced, “The Boxtrolls” is a much funnier affair. The movie cleverly mines Eggs for some fish-out-of-water slapstick gags that’ll go over well with the younger crowd but also mixes it up with a large dose of more subtle, nuanced humour. For example, in a bit of real world criticism, the White Hats are portrayed as policymakers who don’t really do their job and are instead obsessed with tucking into bites of Brie Cheese at meetings. Snatcher is desperate to eat cheese and be accepted into the upper class of society… even though he’s clearly allergic to it. And probably the funniest running gag of the movie is Mr. Trout (Nick Frost) and Mr. Pickles (Richard Ayoade), two of Snatcher’s henchmen who have a running conversion throughout the movie on whether they’re on the side of good and evil. It’s a gag that’s hilariously meta but also pays off wonderfully in the end. There’s really something to laugh about for both young and old viewers.
Wonderfully paced, “The Boxtrolls” is a movie that doesn’t really stop delivering the goods. It manages to transport its viewers into a totally ludicrous world and then proceeds to charm its viewers with an assortment of goodies, which include painstakingly beautiful details and a ton of fun gags. Perhaps, loyal Laika fans may be taken aback by the shift from dark and haunting to a slightly more fun tone but on the flipside, it can also be taken as a refreshing change of pace. Managing to weave in positive messages about class division and personal identity is just gravy on top of everything.