Everything about this film is weird, its characters, its premise, the location, the designs of every place and thing is bizarre but Laika crafts an enjoyable film out of all this. The Boxtrolls is set in a strange Victorian era English town which is being terrorized by underground scavengers known as “Boxtrolls” and the film focuses on a baby taken one night by these creatures and he is raised as one of their own. In the wake of this, the villain of the film Mr. Snatcher vows to capture and exterminate every Boxtroll in hopes of joining the town’s civilised elite “The White Hats”. Years later and the boy “Eggs” is grown and with many of the Boxtrolls are gone, its only when his Boxtroll father figure “Fish” is captured that Eggs decides to go to their rescue. During this journey he discovers the truth of his origin.
That’s one of the problems I had with the film, the story was very predictable, every reveal was obvious and there was little dramatic tension. The story of Eggs wasn’t compelling enough to get me invested in the film, the side characters were more entertaining and it was those side plots that kept me watching. The basic tropes are explored: the monsters aren’t at all what they seem, the boy discovers his true identity despite it being very obvious, GASP! the adults don’t believe the children when they tell them about the villains plan. It’s tedious but the film’s brilliant animation and voice work is why you should watch the film.
Laika has definitely become the most prominent stop motion animation studio working today, their work is unparalleled. Every time I see one of their movies I am floored by how detailed and flawless their animation is, there are points in this film where I can’t comprehend how the animators were accomplish the visuals before me. There is even a delightful mid credits scene that displays the amazing commitment by the Laika animators, they should always be celebrated for their work. There are really great moments of visual storytelling achieved here that sometimes strengthen the weak script.
The most enjoyable element of this film is definitely in its performers, as I said before the world of The Boxtrolls is really peculiar but the actors in this film embrace it wholeheartedly and it helps the world seem believable. Sir Ben Kingsley is unrecognisable as the villain Mr. Snatcher who succeeds in creating such a repugnant character, his plan again is predictable but Kingsley makes Snatcher’s pursuit and aspirations very believable. This man wants to kill a tribe of scavenger monsters that wear cardboard so he can join a high society cheese tasting club and wear a white hat, now read that sentence again, absolutely ridiculous but Kingsley makes it work. The best part of the film is definitely Mr. Snatcher’s henchmen, Mr. Pickles and Mr. Trout voiced by Nick Frost and Richard Ayoade. They are hilarious in this film as they both characters who believe they are the good guys in the story and their slow realisation that they are definitely not. Sweet, bumbling fools that made this film worth watching.
The Boxtrolls is predictable but a spectacle nonetheless, beautiful animation with fantastic voiceover work make up for a weak story. It’s difficult to get invested in the main story but the comedic moments and action sequences make this film worth the watch.