Commencing avoiding the obvious “thinking outside the box” puns in 3… 2…
“The Boxtrolls” is the latest stop motion animated film from Laika Studios who also made the beautiful films “Coraline” and “Paranorman”. They once again show their creative chops this time with a story about a boy raised by the mysterious community of monsters known as “The Boxtrolls” and how he adapts to the strange world of Boxtroll hunting villains and high society cheese lovers that waits above him. So does this movie continue the studios great track record of taking visual interesting settings and telling an emotionally interesting story? For the most part, sure.
Let’s start with the animation, because I think that’s where they really shine. The way they use stop motion is so fluid and clever that you don’t even give it a second thought. Especially here, as there is so little dialogue early in this film that they are using that visual cleverness to tell the entire story. They have also embraced the strategy that if your art style is going to be a little bit quirky, you should let your story match. The ins and outs of this strange alternate universe are beautifully synced to the wonderful strangeness of the animation itself. It all adds to the solid message about personal responsibility for our own actions and how we craft our own existence, not allowing the distractions and fear of the world around us keep us from being who we want to be. Of course the fact that they package that message in some very dry British humor, with an abundance of puns and visual gags, is a wonderful thing as well. In fact, probably my best thing. Of course if you don’t like dry humor, well, fair warning.
As far as negatives, the only thing that bothered me a little bit was that the movie used quite a bit of obvious foreshadowing of it’s plot that I didn’t think was needed. Without it the movie could have saved some of its surprises for more impactful moments without giving them away. I know it seems silly to dock points from a kids movie for mishandling it’s twists, but it was a bit distracting to me and kept the movie, in my opinion, from moving from a really good movie to a great one. I should also say, they really aren’t shy about some of the more disgusting habits of these trolls, and for that matter humans, so be ready for a few gross out moments. but nothing that pushed the movie beyond it’s appropriate PG rating.
Overall, The Boxtrolls is a fun and inventive movie that adequately lives up to it’s beautiful heritage. Some great animation and a lot of quirky choices and humor are enough to offset any plot meandering, to hold it steady at a B+.