At night, the Boxtrolls come out of their home underneath the town of Cheesebridge and forage through the town’s rubbish for things they can use. When a young boy is taken by the Boxtrolls, the town is thrown into a state of fear, and Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) is tasked by Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris) to rid the town of the Boxtrolls once and for all. It is up to Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright) to convince the townsfolk that the Boxtrolls are not evil, but kind and gentle, before it is too late.
Laika – the animation house that brought us Coraline and ParaNorman – have created a reputation of making beautifully realised, warm and engaging stop motion animated films, and The Boxtrolls is no exception. The world of the film looks like a steampunkian dream, with wonderful clanking machinery, gaslights and tons of atmospheric fog. The Boxtrolls themselves are like Coraline or Norman; completely misunderstood by the world around them, while being fun, complex and warm.
The voice cast of the film reads like a who’s who of great actors; Ben Kingsley, Jared Harris, Richard Ayoade, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg and Futurama’s Maurice LaMarche all have roles in the film, with the voices of the Boxtrolls provided by voice acting legends Dee Bradley Baker, Steve Blum, Nika Futterman and Pat Fraley. Each gives a great performance; Kingsley oozes evil and sleaze, Ayoade captures the concerns of a henchman, and Pegg makes Herbert Trubshaw a funny and complicated character. Elle Fanning and Isaac Hempstead Wright provide the voices of the kids at the heart of the film, and they have wonderful chemistry.
The story, based on Alan Snow’s novel Here Be Monsters! is one of misunderstanding and delusions of grandeur, of fear of the stranger and questions never asked, of fear and kindness, all of which blend together to create a warm and engaging tale with a huge heart and tons of not too scary scares. Kids and adults alike will be able to relate to the outcasts of the film – the Boxtrolls themselves – as they struggle to survive and as Eggs tries find a place where he truly belongs.
Directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi have created a world that feels as though it truly exists; that if we stretched our hands out far enough we could reach out and touch the world of The Boxtrolls. The actors are carefully directed, giving the world a well rounded feel, and much of the comedy comes from flipping expectations on their heads, and some well timed words from the more mono-syllabic characters. Emotion and fear run hand in hand in The Boxtrolls, as do love and bravery, all of which come together to make a beautiful and heartfelt film.
The Boxtrolls is a gorgeous stop motion animated film that carefully balances the technology of 3D, beautiful sets and characters, and brilliant voice performances to make a steampunk dream come true. While it would have been nice to spend a little more time in the Boxtrolls’ world, this is place most audience members would be happy to revisit time and time again.