…for a kids movie, anyway. A kid’s movie in 2014, to be more specific.
I would have loved this movie when I was a kid, and in fact I managed to enjoy it quite a bit as a fully grown adult. It reminded me vividly of Wallace and Gromit, which is due to many factors: Cheese plays a major roll (pun!), the film is animated in the same fashion (stop motion animation), and the seamless interactions between characters who speak and characters who mostly pantomime is superb.
Plus the movie has a dark side to it. Not everything in the movie is polished vanilla for the audience to to gulp down like a frosty from 7-11. It’s got tooth and kick, qualities I appreciate ever more in an age when the theaters are dominated by remakes, sequels and super heroes who feel as if they’ve been distilled down to their scientifically most appealing components. “A surprisingly charmless and aimless movie from Laika Studios, the upstart stop-motion artists who previously crafted the wonderfully dark “Coraline” and “Paranorman,” this latest venture seems destined to disturb young viewers while thoroughly boring their parents,” writes a boorish Alonso Duralde . I could not disagree more.
It’s not Pixar and it’s not Disney. As a confirmed contrarian and purveyor of weirdness all I can say after watching “The Boxtrolls” is, “Thank you Jeebus!” Yes, perhaps some of the characters are a tad grotesque and perhaps the plot runs at a pace which is out of sync with the flavorless milieu with which we movie patrons have become accustomed, but at least it has characters and at least the plot is definitively its own.
The story circles around, counter intuitively, the villain, a man named Mr. Snatcher who aspires to rise above his station through any means necessary. He decides to do so by creating boogeyman against which he may triumph and therefore reap grand accolades. He does this by casting common alley pests, the titular Boxtrolls, as murderous demons and implements a series of fascist rules that both terrify the townsfolk and hinder the trolls.
Themes relevant to the rise of Nazi Germany are palpable with strict curfews, poisonous propaganda and the attempted genocide of a peaceful race. If you think that your kids aren’t up for anything so dark don’t forget that not every kid is made of glass.
For every “Frozen” there should be a Boxtroll. When I was a younger, if given the choice between anything Disney and the prospect of rewatching Ralph Bakshi’s bizarre masterpiece “Wizards”, I would have chosen the latter without batting an eye. If offered the option between owning “The Lion King” or “Nightmare Before Christmas” again the latter would be chosen.
Kids, I argue can handle a little grotesquery. Besides, the current generation may grow up in a bizarre world and may need a little weirdness in there diet to prepare them for a world that is nothing like “Frozen”, specifically because it will not contain ice.