Elegantly presenting issues surrounding social stature, materialism, and how they warp our sense of identity, The Boxtrolls engrosses with a child-friendly moodiness reminiscent of Henry Selick’s mid-‘90s family features James and the Giant Peach and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Like Selick’s films, the true charm of these characters comes from their exuberantly animated personalities – not a prettied-up Disney-fied exterior.
As with Coraline and ParaNorman, Laika Entertainment’s stop-motion animated talents flourish to masterfully mesmerizing effect inThe Boxtrolls. Watching as trolls form box staircases to climb gates; upper-class snobs dine on their beloved cheese platters; and the almost self-aware henchmen contemplate “the duality of good and evil”, it’s easy to forget the arduous frame-by-frame process taken to bring these rich and distinctive personalities to life. Their most vile character, boxtroll-exterminator Archibald Snatcher, proves to be the most memorable with his bulging stomach, smug facial features and Ben Kingsley’s fantastically gross voice that speaks to his mutated desire to become a man of wealth and prestige.
Though the humour doesn’t try for Aardman levels of adult comedy, it does include a hearty mix of sublime slapstick and modest wit (including the best milk gag ever). The laughs do not betray the gorgeous world Laika has created, never cheapening themselves to formulaic cracks or lazy pop-culture references. There are gross-out gags, but they are cleverly and politely concealed. Rarely does a film earn its fart jokes; The Boxtrolls brilliantly ends on one.
‘The Boxtrolls’ Movie Times (also in 3D)