The Boxtrolls is the latest stop-motion film by the production company Laika, known for the excellent pictures Coraline and Paranorman. Their new film continues their trend of making slightly ghoulish charmers; monsters movies with a big heart.
Based on an Alan Snow book, The Boxtrolls takes places in a Victorian era-esque city of cheese-craving aristocrats and easily spooked locals. One evening, a child appears to be taken by the titular creatures, short green-ish little guys that speak in a high-pitched growl. The rather crooked looking Archibald Snatcher (voiced by Ben Kinglsey) says he knows it was the Boxtrolls and promises to kill each one that hides within the city, as long as he is given the privilege to be amongst the aristocrats.
Turns out that the apprehended child wasn’t stolen by the Boxtrolls, he was saved by them. The creatures raise the baby, known to them as Eggs (voiced by Isaac Hempstead-Wright) since, like his new family, he wears one of the various boxes found amongst human garbage. The Boxtrolls themselves are kind and obsessed with building knick-knacks out of gears. The Boxtroll Fish (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) raises Eggs, teaching him the intricacies of the culture, the joys of music and how to hide from Archibald. As Eggs grows older and his family members begin decreasing, he is confronted with the fact that he is actually a human by the snooty, bone-and-blood obsessed young girl Winnie (voiced by Elle Fanning).
Directed by Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi, with a screenplay by Irena Brignull and Adam Pava, The Boxtrolls is a genuine joy. The film deftly mixes it comedic and dramatic sensibilities and fairytale nature, making it feel like a great children’s book that somehow slipped through the cracks centuries ago. The relationship between Eggs and Fish gives the warm and fuzzies, all with only one character speaking any dialogue that isn’t grunts or the words Eggs. The animation gently uses the character molds to form a glee and sadness as their bond evolves.
The comedy comes through equally strong. The Archibald Snatcher character is gloriously silly, obsessing over cheese despite his lactose intolerance to increasingly gross degrees. Kingsley gives him a lot of insanity, even as it sounds nothing like the Oscar winning actor. As Snatcher lies to the town, dresses in drag for burlesque shows and works with his lackeys, two of which debate whether or not they’re the good guys, his every scene is a winner. At one point, one lackey voiced by Richard Ayoade ponders whether they can be called The Exterminators and truly be heroic, to which a second member pipes in that perhaps they’re exterminating evil.
It’s all a treasure, from the outlandish songs that make their presence to a giant piece of brie named “The Brie-hemoth.” Fret not that this will scare the little ones, The Boxtrolls is well worth one’s time and money.
The Boxtrolls opens wide all across Seattle.