When The Boxtrolls came out last September, my weekly movie theater preview was smothered in skepticism. Even the general movie-going public’s opinion on this movie wasn’t even lukewarm. People were even more confused and slightly angry when it got an Oscar nod over The Lego Movie in the Best Animated category.
Could I and the general public have been more wrong? My initial thoughts on this movie were that I would be OK if it had beat out Big Hero 6 for the Oscar this past February. While it did not achieve wide acclaim, Laika Studios, the animation studio responsible for Paranorman, Coraline, and Corpse Bride, all interesting and visually fetching stop-motion animation movies, produced a solid, funny, artistic, and fun movie for kids and adults.
Taking place in the fictional city of Cheesebridge, the Boxtrolls are a collective of cave-dwelling trolls that have made their home under the city, collect trash, wear boxes as clothing/protection. When a orphaned baby ends up in their underground city, they take him under their corrugated wings and raise the adopted boy, who they name “Eggs”. When Eggs is grown, he realizes he looks much more like the aboveground human denizens of Cheesebridge. He befriends and teams up with the bristly and snappish Winnie (Elle Fanning), daughter of Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris), the leader of the city and cheese cognoscente. Winnie and Eggs must hatch a daring plan to try and save the Boxtrolls from the sinister exterminator, Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley).
Laika has always dabbled in the macabre and gross, and The Boxtrolls is no exception. Eschewing their normal habit of gothic imagery and death; the artistic feel of Gothic is alive and well. They make up for the lack of undead and cadaverous iconography by majoring on the gross (code for fart, booger, and body odor jokes). It’s done tastefully, which proves it can be done, as a part of the subterranean creatures quirky and curious nature. If your kids aren’t captured by the story, the silly Boxtrolls will keep their attention and have them giggling (I know from experience).
It’s a fun story majoring on themes of family and community, as well as surprising themes on classism and prejudice which is not normally talked about in a kids movie. Kingsley’s Archibald Snatcher longs to wear the white hats, a symbol of privilege and a distinctive taste for cheese, of the elites, like Lord Portley-Rind, but settles for oppressing the Boxtrolls and capturing them in hopes of achieving that status through deception and exploiting the disgusting pariahs of Cheesebridge. For those of you parents looking for a movie that engages more than just your kids, you will be pleasantly surprised by The Boxtrolls and that is why we recommend it to you for your weekend viewing. Enjoy the movie and let us know what you think!