Loosely based on Here Be Monsters, a novel by Alan Snow, The Boxtrolls marks the third foray into dark fantasy for animation studio Laika. Set in Cheesebridge, a town living in fear of child-snatching Boxtrolls, the film begins with pest exterminator Archibald Snatcher offering his services in exchange for a white hat (a sign of privilege amongst local town-folk).
Concerned more for their love of cheese than anything else, Lord Portley-Rind agrees to bestow a white hat upon Snatcher in exchange for the riddance of every last Boxtroll. However, not is all as it seems, and the illusive creatures that live underground are nothing more than trash collecting builders who live in harmony. They’ve even raised a young human boy as their own (named Eggs), and it is he who must come to the rescue of his adoptive family when they face extermination from the humans.m
Another hit from the studio that brought us Coraline and Paranorman, The Boxtrolls is a fantastic achievement, both in terms of story and animation. Much like the studio’s first two feature length films, this script is jam-packed with genuine wit, thrills and a sense of adventure. Never talking down to its younger audience, the usual slapstick is substituted with well conceived set pieces that would make any writer of comedy envious, particularly a scene in which Eggs is introduced to civil society.
It’s not quite as dark as the genuinely creepy Coraline or Paranorman, yet there is still a sinister and grown-up unease that takes the form of the films lead villain, Archibald Snatcher, a nightmarish character voiced superbly though unrecognisably by Sir Ben Kingsley.
Like all the best animated films, its darkness may prove challenging in parts for a very young audience, but at it’s core are the messages about familial bonds and bravery; a difficult balance to get right.
The script does a great job of fleshing out even the minor characters, successfully communicating the various trolls’ personalities no matter how small a part they play. Even the villainous henchmen are given more to do than usual, their moral struggle as to whether they are the heroes or villains providing a few laughs along the way.
As well as its rock-solid script, the visuals are truly outstanding; at times you won’t believe you are watching stop-motion animation instead of the more popularly used CGI. Like the contraptions made by the film’s titular characters, the film has many moving parts. Scenes containing a huge number of people give the film a massive scope and there’s a tremendous amount of detail on show, whether in the characters’ faces or various machines.
The only thing more impressive than the animation is Laika itself, whose continuing success in making different and original animated films offers a lot of promise for their future, and has me genuinely excited as to what they’ll do next.
The Boxtrolls is previewing this weekend and out everywhere from September 12th. It’s hilarious, exciting and warm-hearted family fun, and well worth a trip to the cinema for.
Image credit to http://www.imdb.com