There is something truly intimate about stop-motion animation. It isn’t just the years of effort that the animators put into creating the worlds and characters they create, but it also seems to come from something deeper. It is like some sort of joy comes from seeing these ideas realized after all the effort, and there is a distinct charm with this animation style than any other.
It doesn’t seem as detached as CGI can feel or picturesque as hand-drawn. Stop-motion almost feels like what dreams would be like: some elements of reality and some of complete fantasy. This is the idea that the animation company, Laika, as capture through their two previous efforts, Coraline and ParaNorman, and is no different in their latest, The Boxtrolls.
Even more than their first two movies, The Boxtrolls begins by throwing you deep into this exotic, yet lived in world, that contains the creatures, also called Boxtrolls. These creatures live under the town of Cheesebridge and only come out at night in order to find trash and other assorted items to take back and try to add to their collection at home. They eat bugs, enjoy a good noise, but most importantly don’t harm anyone.
That isn’t the belief of Archibald Snatcher (voiced by Ben Kingsley), who wants to round up the Boxtrolls and rid the town of them. This is an easy task as the townspeople believe Boxtrolls to be creatures who come and steal children in the night, or at least that is what the legend says. Snatcher also wants to join the elite club of the town, the White Hats, led by Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris) who run the town, wear tall bleached caps, and enjoy the finer cheeses of the world in their tasting room.
The theme of class and where one person lies is important in The Boxtrolls and it is clear to see through the story between Portley-Rind and Snatcher, who wants nothing more than to be viewed as elite instead of bottom dwelling, which his Red Hat crew is. But instead of going with the theme of it doesn’t matter what hat you wear, you still can do something with it, The Boxtrolls completely takes this hat structure away and says that you can do anything, without the constraints of society holding you down.
The film is beautifully animated and even more than the past two films, it has this labyrinth style world that has some many different avenues and levels, it is incredible to think of it as this one set with figures everywhere. The Boxtrolls are adorable, funny creatures that feel like more fleshed out and characterized versions of Despicable Me‘s Minions.
While it never really tries to pander to children, the film exudes a wonderful sense of style and humor that shows that animated films don’t need to pander to kids to be funny or come out with the latest pop song or fart joke, kids love adventure and The Boxtrolls is no exception to giving one of the year’s best animated ones.
While I’m unsure of where it lies in the ranking of the other Laika movies, The Boxtrolls is another testament to where animation can go and the creative minds that still work within the craft. At times it is funny, sometimes sad, and overall happy, the film knows how to interact with its audience while not talking to them like they are draft or illiterate. It also shows the immense talent that Laika continues to be, which continues to be a company diving into the minds of dreams and trying to replicate them for audiences to journey into.