Delightful, The Boxtrolls packs a joyful thrill-ride into a short package.
This latest entry from Laika, makers of Coraline and ParaNorman, feels right at home delivering childish merriment with serious undertones. Techniques have improved in the art of stop-motion filmmaking and this crew is at the top of their game. Arriving at the slump of blockbuster season, Boxtrolls performed respectably its first weekend against falling incumbent Maze Runner and the Denzil Washington vehicle The Equalizer, reminding box office buffs that holiday season with its family-oriented audiences is right around the corner.
As is their fashion, Laika tell the tale of a pair of children misunderstood by their elders. The city of Cheesebridge is beset by a nocturnal gang of villains, the titular Boxtrolls. A none-too-subtle picture of class segregation sets the backdrop for Archibald Snatcher’s (Ben Kingsley) bid to join the upper crust. He begins his campaign after a young boy is abducted by the Boxtrolls and he vows to eradicate the pests for a coveted White Hat and a seat at the top table. Years on we find, unsurprisingly, that the Boxtrolls are in fact lovable little scamps surviving and thriving under the city streets recycling the citizens’ refuse and making fantastic machines with it. All comes to a head when the boy, know as the Trubshaw Baby or subterraneanly as Egg (Isaac Wright), meets the daughter of Cheesebridge’s mayor, Winnie (Elle Fanning), and the race to save the vanishing Boxtrolls is on.
Boxtrolls provides a wonderful return to the simplistic designs of children’s pictures, while not being didactic enough to alienate the parental audience. The narrative is tightly packed, bordering on too short, but delivers plenty of fun in its brief runtime. Moreover, it is a story about Fatherhood – presenting a clear definition midway through for what that role entails and then supporting that ideology with a pair of counterexamples, though sadly missing the opportunity to laud the lovable surrogate dad. A touch on the nose, it represents a message rarely spoken so outrightly in a Hollywood flick.
The film excels with the characters it builds and the casting behind it. Isaac Wright makes a stunning debut voicing Egg; Kingsley turns in an unrecognizable performance buried in the character of Snatcher. Supporting characters are lovingly played up by the hilarious trio of Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, and Tracy Morgan. Mainly though, Elle Fanning shines as a relatable Winnie, who despite appearing like a cross between Veruca Mark and Darla Dimple, wins our hearts with ease.
Coming from Graham Annabelle, personally a favorite artist, and Anthony Stacchi, The Boxtrolls is sweet as a bright piece of cheese. The taste strikes the palette, lingers just long enough, then settles back into a refreshing flavor at the back of your tongue. Delightfully witty and heartwarming, this latest work solidifies the notion that Laika is at the top of the stop-motion game. A delicious watch for parents and children alike, Boxtrolls is one not to see on a small screen.