The Boxtrolls: Movie Review
Cast: Ben Kingsley, Richard Ayoade, Nick Frost, Toni Collette, Jared Harris, Tracey Morgan, Simon Pegg, Isaac Hempstead-Wright
Director: Graham Annable, Anthony Stacci
Laika has already produced two fine pieces of stop-motion animation; the wondrous Coraline and the spooky Paranorman. Now they can add the equally impressive The Boxtrolls to their list.
Based on the book "Here Be Monsters" by Alan Snow, this Dickensian tale of social standing and lost children is parts Jeunet and Caro (even down to the Delicatessen like playing of the saw) and parts nightmarish fable, all whirled up with a hint of whimsical silliness and warmth of heart.
Newcomer Isaac Hempstead-Wright plays an orphan Eggs, raised underground by the Boxtrolls, who are seen by those above as trash-collecting thieves and subsequently hunted for it. The Pied-Piper like Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley in a vocal revelation of a role)has promised to rid the town of the vermin in exchange for a white hat (a sign of social standing) and entry to the cheese tasting halls (despite major allergies to the dairy product). When the Boxtrolls are facing extinction, Eggs suddenly has to make a choice and wander into a world he's previously avoided.
The Boxtrolls is an utter delight, a mix of both childish wonder and dark nightmarish moments which tap into childish fears of what lies below. Underneath the gorgeous and painstaking stop-motion animation of these Gollum-gibberish spouting Gremlins, there's also a melancholy tale seeded throughout - social standing, abandonment and rich questions over morality are thrown in for the adults but never at the expense of the children who are along for the ride.
While the world-class animation impresses, the vocal cast soars; from Ben Kingsley's almost Child-Catcher like cruelty as the monstrous Snatcher (who's haunted by a twisted desire to be accepted into this cheese-obsessed society) to Hempstead-Wright's subtle turn as the boy who has to face his fears, there's plenty of rich resonance on show here.
Laika never loses track of the gags though - from a Mr Creosote inspired moment to some truly cheesy puns and outright slapstick, there are laughs for all ages. Visually resplendent and a fable for all ages, there's no denying The Boxtrolls is a school holiday treat.