Stop motion used to freak me out as a kid. I blame the Wallace in Gromit shorts (which are wonderful by the way) which had some creepy imagery that stayed with me through most of my childhood. Over the years however, I’ve grown to appreciate it as a brilliant way of telling stories through animation. Heck some of my currently favourite animated films are stop motion (including The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Pirates: Band of misfits). Laika studios (the creative minds behind Coraline and Paranorman) help keep the art of stop motion alive and well with their latest animated feature, The Box Trolls.
The Box Trolls’s main attraction is the animation. It’s really, really, REALLY good, and it’s hard not to marvel at it. The characters and the environments are given the finest details, and it really shows that the creators take attention to detail very seriously. There’s always something going on in every frame, wether it’s in the foreground, or a simple background joke. It’s nearly impossible to look away (save for a few intentionally disturbing scenes) and it’s incredible to see how much the animation is capable of, especially in the action sequences. I could only find one shot of the film that had a CGI effect in it, and it was towards the end. Everything else appears to be completely made by hand, and it’s stunning.
The two main characters, Eggs and Winnie, aren’t the most engaging leads. They aren’t painful to watch or anything, and Winnie does get a few good lines here and there, but I couldn’t help but feel that I had seen these character types in countless other films. Most of Egg’s arc plays out like a fish out of water story and it’s not any more interesting here then it was the last time we saw it. The reason I take issue with this is because there are so many other interesting characters in this movie that I would rather spend time with, but don’t get as many chances to. The plot isn’t terribly original either, mostly playing out like a fish out of water storyline that feels predictable. The rest of the characters however, are a ton of fun. With the four villains, Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) and his three henchmen Mr. Trout, Mr. Pickles and Mr. Gristle (my personal favourite) being the most entertaining to watch. They’re diabolical and hilarious antagonists that really carry film. The Box Trolls themselves are interesting and fun to watch as well, although they did often remind me of the Minions found in Despicable Me.
The Box Trolls isn’t my favourite Laika film (that honour goes to Coraline) but it’s a solid and fun ride that has a great cast, some memorable characters and a fantastic sense of humour. Some of the imagery may be too intense for younger viewers, but most kids above the age of 7 should be fine with it. Animation fans should have a field day with this one, and I hope that Laika continues to improve and make fun stop motion films in the future.