People who think animated children’s movies don’t need to try to be great are fools. Contrary to popular belief, a lot of children can tell when something is good or bad. So if you show a kid Disney’s Home on the Range, they are not going to just look at the pretty colors and over the top characters and be happy. They are going to tell that the movie sucks. There’s a reason that movie never gets brought up but Kung Fu Panda does. Quality is a factor in children’s movies and it’s all the more apparent in The Boxtrolls. You see, a great children’s movie doesn’t just appeal to kids but to everyone.
Evil creatures have come to Cheesebridge and exterminator Archibald Snatcher knows how to get rid of them. In exchange for a prominent position in the esteemed White Hats council, Snatcher will capture and kill all of the Boxtrolls, a species of creatures who are rumored to kidnap and kill children. In reality, the Boxtrolls are peaceful who come out at night to rummage through garbage cans for useful items for their inventions, despite Snatcher slowly capturing them one by one. Among them is a human child named Eggs who is unaware of his actual identity. Will he discover his true identity and will he be able to save his Boxtroll brethren?
The premise of the story is fairly creative and that creativity never lets up as the movie goes on. All of the set pieces and story beats may not be the most creative ideas out there but they are done in ways that feel fresh and you never feel like you’ve seen this before while watching this movie. All of the characters in the movie each have unique traits and personality quirks that make them more than typical character types. Whether it’s the Boxtrolls communicating their emotions with their own language, Snatcher’s silly and comical allergy, or his henchmen who think they’re the good guys, no one is left out, regardless of how small their role is. This is made all the more apparent by the wonderful ensemble cast The Boxtrolls has, including Issac Hempstead-Wright (Game of Thrones), Ben Kingsley (Shutter Island), Elle Fanning (Malificent), and Nick Frost and Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz).
A lot of the movie revolves around saving the Boxtrolls from Snatcher but there’s also some time given to the main character Eggs’ introduction and connection with the human world. This is mostly facilitated by Winnie, the daughter of the head of the White Hats council. Early on in the movie, she makes a connection with Eggs and is the catalyst that throws the routine of the Boxtrolls out of wack. That is appropriate as she is the character that questions a lot of the routines present in the movie. Because of this, Winnie is definitely the most necessary character in the movie, as a big motif of this movie is not having to be what you think you are.
Because of this motif of expanding outside of your place in the world, The Boxtrolls is sometimes not bright and happy and good natured. Not that The Boxtrolls has anything inappropriate or shocking but the movie definitely has a dark side to it. Snatcher is legitimately menacing and is capable of murder. There is a brutal nature to the Boxtrolls’ capture. One of the characters in the movie cross dresses. None of these are so explicit as to disturb younger viewers but these are there. However, I find that refreshing as it shows the filmmakers respecting the audience to be mature enough to be able to deal with these themes and be able to learn from them if younger.
One of the greatest strengths of this movie is the pacing. Never is there something not interesting or action-packed happening on screen. When you’re not watching in wonderment the world of the Boxtrolls, you’re enjoying the ride as a chase scene or some other action scene happens. It helps that a lot of these scenes look wonderful thanks to the stop motion animation, which makes each of the characters looks unique and gives the whole movie a lot more personality. That’s really the greatest strength of the movie aesthetically, the personality and love the movie was given shine through.
There aren’t really that many problems with this movie but one I can wager is it’s that the main character Eggs is often the least interesting in the room around him. His arc is the one aspect of this film that feel predictable. However, that really is a strength of the movie itself. It’s not like Eggs is bland, he’s just not as interesting as the others. Another thought that comes to mind is the soundtrack isn’t particularly memorable. Finally, the intro happens at a relatively face pace that I only partially grasped what was happening but at this point, I’m nitpicking.
To be perfectly honest, The Boxtrolls is the best movie I’ve seen this year, or at least that has been released on BluRay and DVD this year. The characters are fantastic, the story is engaging, the animation is endearing, the set pieces are awe-inspiring, and the voice acting is wonderful. It’s actually hard to talk about this movie in a review because I don’t want to spoil anything about this movie. Everything about it, including the more standard aspects of it, is fascinating to watch. It’s the best animated movie I’ve seen since The Lego Movie and it shows that children’s movies can be great for everyone. Also, it’s not just Disney and Pixar making good kids movies. Suck it, mouse ears.