The Box Trolls (2014)
Directors: Graham Anabelle, Anthony Stacchi
Voice Actors: Ben Kingsley, Jared Harris, Nick Frost, Tracy Morgan, Elle Fanning, Toni Collette, Simon Pegg, Isaac Hempstead Wright
I've always enjoyed the films that the guys at Laika produce because they pride themselves in making children’s films that opposed to 95% of children’s films made these days, actually have something to say. They have a brain to them. They don’t make empty crap, they actually make films that have substance. Take for example Coraline (2009), a film about a little girl who is unhappy with her family life, so she escapes to an alternate universe with alternate versions of mommy and daddy. They appear to be better, but are they? I’m still finding new themes every time I watch Coraline. For a children’s film it’s extremely layered, it’s a film that both parents and children can enjoy. Same can be said for Paranorman (2012), a film about a little boy who is having a hard time adjusting to the fact that he is just a little bit different than the rest of the kids in town; he can talk to the dead! And so, here comes The Boxtrolls; does it deliver the depth in themes that we've come to expect from Laika films?
Of course it does! This production company’s mission is to enlighten young minds; and so this time around the film takes place in a fictional town called Cheesebridge, a town where everybody loves cheese. The townspeople believe in these creatures called The Boxtrolls and according to town legend these Boxtrolls are murderous creatures that come out at night to steal and eat your children. We soon learn that these creatures aren't evil at all; they simply live on other people’s garbage. Whatever humans throw away, the Boxtrolls can find a use for. The Boxtrolls have raised a human boy amongst them whom they call ‘Eggs’ because the box he wears is a box of eggs. When Eggs grows into a teenager, he wants to see the world above. Will he ever learn that he is a human and not a Boxtroll? Will he ever meet his real parents? On top of things, the rich and powerful elite are scheming to eradicate the Boxtrolls forever! Will they achieve their goal? Or will the Boxtroll’s fight for their right to exist?
So yes, once again we get a deep, heavy themed movie from Laika. This time around they've decided to address class issues. You see, in this film the Boxtrolls represent the poor, the underclass, those struggling to survive in the world and 'The White Hats' are members of high society whose only worry in life is eating the finest cheese and wearing finest clothes, the concerns of the people don't really matter to them. These White Hats see The Boxtrolls as a menace, a plague that should be eliminated. Not so different from what goes on in the world today, where the rich and powerful see the masses as a hindrance, as ‘monsters’ so to speak, as people they don’t even want to associate themselves with. This is why in the film The Boxtrolls are seen as hideous, but only because this is a myth that is propagated amongst the people. In reality, The Boxtrolls are harmless, even lovable. They all live inside their little boxes, which they hide in as soon as they sense danger. The symbolisms are quite clear when we look at it. The poor live inside “the box”, they hide from society, looking for their own comfort. But we learn through the film that what they need to do is think outside the box and fight for their right to coexist in this world. In this sense the film is extremely similar to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), the poor who live in the underworld and the rich who live above must find a way to understand each other. If I’m to draw comparison’s to other films, Little Monsters (1989), would be another one, in that one, the monsters also lived in some kind of underground alternate universe. Another similar one would be City of Ember (2008), which played with similar ideas.
And this is why I love Laika films. They address themes that kids should be exposed to and rarely are. I mean, I’m all for “believe in yourself” and “follow your dreams” (and there is some of that in this film) but there’s other themes that can be addressed to children, especially when we take in consideration the kind of complex world we live in, a world in which children deal with more diverse matters than the ones presented in what passes for children's films these days. This is why I always applaud children’s films that go a little further and don’t take our children for granted. Films like Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) or Spike Jonze’s Where The Wild Things Are (2009), films that don’t treat children like idiots, which I think is something that modern society tends to do just a little too much. It is my opinion that children are very capable of grasping and learning concepts and ideas a whole lot faster than they are given credit for, so I’m all for children movies with brains, especially ones that are as artful and as interesting to look at as the films that Laika is producing.
The cherry on the cake is the amazing stop motion animation which I just love to look at, to me stop motion animation, when done right, is eye candy. And trust me; these films are a true wonder! I still bow down to stop motion artist and I am glad this film making technique refuses to die. It works wonders in films of this kind, and I honestly hope that the folks at Laika never stop making their films, though I know these films are an endangered species. Still, I’m happy that every now and again a stop motion animated film pops up and I'm happy that they have not completely disappeared. To me the films that Laika is producing are as amazing as the films that Studio Ghibli produces, unique because not everybody is making them. Unique because they are old school and that makes them all the more special, true gems.
Rating: 5 out of 5