Even at the know-it-all age of 15, movies like “Coraline” and “ParaNorman” used to bring nightmares. “The Boxtrolls” is the latest stop-motion film brought to us by the same absurdly talented animators at Laika.
“Boxtrolls,” with its weird, colorful environment that adapts odd textures has to be the best animated movie to hit theaters since “The Lego Movie.”
The stop motion animation is above par, as usual. The story is unfolded in an imaginative way that constantly has your eyes flittering around the screen. Co-directors Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable help guide the movie to parallel Alan Snow’s book “Here Be Monsters.”
The movie starts us out with Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright) who is a baby when he is kidnapped and raised by the Boxtrolls and also believes he is one himself. Essentially, these Boxtrolls live underground during the 19th Cheesebridge, where your status in town is based on how much cheese you own.
During the night, the odd looking, gnome-like creatures pop out of manhole covers and dig through the city, looking for bits and pieces to take back to their home. Their wide, glowing eyes make them scary to humans and help scrounge up all types of legends: they steal children, eat people and live in the remains of their meals. Their mission is never fully explained, as well as the odd gibberish they speak that sounds closely related to that of the Minions from “Despicable Me.” Boxtrolls, being the scavengers that they are, are also named after the box armor they take on, hence Egg, Fish, Shoe, Fragile etc.
The town residents become paranoid because the supposed pest exterminator, Snatcher (voiced by Ben Kingsley), makes big news of himself and his henchmen, Mr. Trout (Nick Frost), Mr. Pickles (Richard Ayoade) and Mr. Gristle (Tracy Morgan), as well as ranting about the horrible things that the Boxtrolls do and offers to get rid of them.
In the end, Snatcher has one goal in mind, to join Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris) and his dignitaries in the banquets of cheese tasting room. But things do not go as planned when Portley- Rind’s sweet daughter Winnie (Elle Fanning) comes across Eggs and realizes that the Boxtrolls are harmless.
The real action begins with the Boxtrolls on the run while Snatcher, and his drag alter ego Madame Frou Frou chase after them. It is a story of children beating adults in while also teaching them the important lessons that children can never hear enough of: it is okay to be different and that families come in all shapes and sizes.
For its dark humor and odd visuals, Boxtrolls has warmth that is unexpected. Contrary to belief and unlike Laika’s previous films, the movie is not scary. Previously mentioned, the Boxtrolls create mischief and rolling gags similar to that of Despicable Me that has you laughing nonstop.
Younger children may not understand the economic themes underlying Snatcher/Portley- Rind, but it is so easy to appreciate. There is still plenty of excitement in the movie and enough “Ewwwws” (slime and slugs) and “Awwwws” to last a lifetime.
P.S. Stick around after the credits to watch two of the henchmen, Mr. Trout and Mr. Pickles discuss their place in the world while this amazing world is actually created around them.