Director(s): Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable
Writer(s): Adam Pava, Irena Brignull
Starring: Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Elle Fanning, Ben Kingsley, Jared Harris, Nick Frost, Tracy Morgan, Richard Ayoade, Simon Pegg,
Adapted form the novel “Here Be Monsters!” written and illustrated by Alan Snow
Release Date: September 26, 2014
"NO! Don’t scratch those! That’s why they’re called privates!"
I have said this time and time again, animation is becoming a bigger thing, It is more than just a way to entertain your children for an allotted amount of time. Granted, that is the sole purpose for some, but studios like Laika are completely flipping that around. With past releases like Paranorman and Coraline it is safe to say that they see a bigger picture in both animation and story. Their recent film The Boxtrolls is yet another animated masterpiece that helps support my statement.
The Boxtrolls are a community of quirky yet mischievous creatures, who have lovingly raised an orphaned human boy named Eggs in the home they’ve built beneath the streets of Cheesebridge. When the town’s boxtroll exterminator, Archibald Snatcher, comes up with a plot to get rid of the Boxtrolls, Eggs decides to venture above ground, where he meets and teams up with Winnifred. Together, they devise a plan to save Eggs’ family and stop Snatcher.
The second the film began I was struck instantly by the beautiful landscapes and designs of the characters – which Laika is famous for creating. Although, in The Boxtrolls, there was a completely different look from previous films. The overall tone that the film gave was dark, gritty and a bit disturbing. Most of which was created by the emotion and odd traits of the characters, with Snatcher and his henchmen being the main culprits. Each scene they were featured in forced a shiver down the spine. I’m not saying that this is a horror film, but since these characters are villains every scene makes them look and feel just like villains. There is no sympathy to be found and you actually begin to fear them. This alone adds to the artistic value of the film that is carried throughout. Keep in mind that this may frighten some younger children. I’m telling you these characters are a bit disturbing. Even I was frightened.
The attention to detail in every frame is fascinating. In fact, there is so much detail you can find something new in each scene. It feels as if nothing is repeated. The landscapes of the town and home of the Boxtrolls feel as if you can walk on it. It is that intense. And, The fact that this film was crafted by hand is impressive. One of the many reasons why I believe stop-motion is the highest form of animation.
Admittedly, the general story is a bit formulaic. I can say that I have seen this film before, in one form or another. BUT, something about this particular film felt as if something extra were added. I can’t find the exact word to describe it. So, I’ll go with the generic word “heart.” That may not be a justifiable word, but it’ll do. There was so much more to take from the film other than plot. There were heartfelt themes that you can relate to and its characters embodied the emotions, feelings, and mentality that may resemble your own – this was carried throughout. I am in a constant debate with both the general public and avid filmgoers about how I believe animation can be more than just a “children’s film.” It has been proven not once, but three times by Laika that animation is only a type of film. They consistently give us films that are thought-provoking, heart felt yet still completely fun. They take on real world issues and stick with them through to the end. I’m not saying they’re not trying to cater to children and help them think about things in a much more grand spectrum, but the fact that they can’t sell an animated film to no one other than children, is rather disappointing. So, I say watch this film without any pretensions. You will be surprised at what it can offer.
The Boxtrolls was a brilliant film that carried equal weight in both heart and thought-provoking themes. I do have to say that it was the “worst” film that Laika has released, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s lousy. The film is in fact great. I just felt this film lacked what the other two had to offer. The themes were apparent and the artistry was superb, but I felt like there were too many moments that were put in as a way to fill space. These particular scenes weren’t bad. They just felt like they didn’t need to be there at all. At times it felt like they were dumbing down to keep the attention of children. Which I understand is necessary but I believe kids these days are smarter and will understand.
Even with its seemingly unnoticeable flaws, I still this rank this film as one of the best of modern day animation. This isn’t an exaggeration either. Laika is completely transcending the genre into something new and revolutionary. I only hope that some day we see animation being catered to adults.