In the town of Cheesebridge, the evil boxtrolls lurk…
At least that’s the story that we’re told at the start of The Boxtrolls, but things are not at all what they seem. Which will be pretty obvious if you’ve seen a single trailer or caught a glimpse of those characters on the posters.
The Boxtrolls are cute and burbly creatures who live under Cheesebridge and come out at night to collect odds and ends for their own creative purposes. They’ve got a major part to play in this story, which also involves a cheese-swilling club, an evil exterminator and a young boy called Eggs.
The film is the latest from Laika, the stop motion enthusiasts behind Coraline and ParaNorman. And while it’s based on the book Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow, the two share little in common, giving Laika free rein to create their own incredible world.
And so they do. Laika has become known for hand crafted brilliance of their films, with everything you see on screen put together by a talented team of artisans. And then it’s all brought to life via painstaking stop motion animation complete with complicated camera moves and incredible real-life effects.
I’m consistently fascinated by the process of stop-motion animation and with the extended production cycles of Aardman, Laika’s films are the best place to see high quality versions of the form. Bringing realistic motion to life via tiny motions is a marvellous throwback to the earliest forms of cinema and the creative verve required to bring the flow of water and sparks of fire to screen is consistently enthralling.
As a film, The Boxtrolls also manages to show the versatility of Laika. After the kid friendly chills of Coraline and the surprisingly mature drama of ParaNorman (complete with clever horror in-jokes), their third film is also easily their lightest. The boxtrolls are cute and perfect for kids while the over-arching story and themes are fairly simple.
It’s still a wonderfully stylised piece and has a hair-raising finale which might be a bit much for the very young. It’s also more than a little odd, throwing in a musical number and adding a cheese fetish element that’s alarmingly strange. It doesn’t all hang together perfectly but the visuals more than compensate for any narrative shortcomings.
The Boxtrolls is a marvellously made film and Laika’s more openly entertaining picture to date. The stop motion is superb and kids will fall in love with the boxtrolls, while there’s plenty for grownups to enjoy in the dialogue and danger. Just do yourself a favour and avoid the 3D version so you can bask in all the glorious detail onscreen.