The animation in “The Boxtrolls” is nothing short of mesmerizing.
When you realize it was all done with stop-motion animation, it becomes really amazing.
The third film from the animation studio Laika, which previously brought us 2012’s “ParaNorman” and 2009’s “Coraline,” follows a group of curious creatures who live in boxes — boxtrolls.
By day they live in an underground cavern, only going topside at night to collect odds and ends thrown out by humans. Their twilight supply runs, however, are marred by a crew of troll hunters, bent on exterminating the city of the creatures.
Among the boxtrolls is a boy, Eggs (voiced by Isaac Hempstead Wright), who has been raised as one of their own. During one outing, his adoptive father, Fish, is captured by the head of the exterminators, the evil Archibald Snatcher (voiced by Ben Kingsley). Eggs has to venture into the light and enlist the help of a girl, Winnie (voiced by Elle Fanning), to try to save his odd little family.
The character and set design, and the movie’s slightly macabre tint, feel slightly like Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas” or “Corpse Bride,” which I mean as a compliment. Winnie, for example, tells of the boxtrolls’ storied habits with gusto, like “rivers of blood” and “piles of babies’ bones,” while Archibald Snatcher gleefully attacks the boxtrolls with a steam-powered, fire-breathing mechanical contraption and one of his henchmen takes great delight in using leeches.
And again, the animation…the animation! It is gorgeous! The amount of detail in the sets and characters is astounding, and the movements are incredible. I could gush about it for way more of the day than either of us has time for. I loved it so much that I was almost distracted from the story by how the story was being told.
Which could be why I wasn’t over the moon for the plot. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with it, but it felt a bit thin. Some elements, such as the exotic Madam Frou-Frou, seemed oddly shoved into the rest of the story, and the, shall we say, explosive ending seemed a bit grim for kids. Although, to be fair, kids would just think it was funny — it would most likely be their parents saying “ewwwww.”
“The Boxtrolls” may or may not have what it takes to become a classic, but it is a clever and well-done tale tailor-made for families as Halloween draws near.
Time: 96 minutes