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The Boxtrolls

It will surprise no one familiar with Coraline and Paranorman, the stop-motion animated films made by Laika, that The Boxtrolls is the best family film to be released since at least How to Train a Dragon 2, if not The LEGO Movie. Based upon Alan Snow’s book, Here Be Monsters (which would have been a much better title), The Boxtrolls live underneath the city of Cheesebridge (where, naturally, the number-one product is cheese) and emerge every night to steal anything (i.e. mostly trash) not nailed down.

One night, they had stolen a baby, who has grown up to be the protagonist, Eggs (v. Isaac Hempstead Wright, aka Bran Stark on HBO’s “Game of Thrones”). When the evil Archibald Snatcher (v. Ben Kingsley) captures most of the Boxtrolls in his quest to earn a white hat (apparently, this hat is the only way to gain entry to Cheesebridge’s cheese-tasting room), it’s up to Eggs and Winnie (Elle Fanning), the daughter of the town’s most prominent cheese lover, Lord Portley-Rind (v. Jared Harris), to save the sweet, ugly creatures from extinction.

Another characteristic that should not surprise Laika lovers is the darkness of The Boxtrolls. Whereas Paranorman was a real horror movie made for kids, The Boxtrolls tackles as grown-up an idea as genocide, not to mention that Snatcher cross-dresses. But all these adult themes are handled in a family-suitable way; they merely mean the film can appeal to more than just the childish audience fascinated by Cars and Planes. The entertaining duo of Nick Frost and Richard Ayoade (watch “The IT Crowd” if this name is not familiar) shine as two-thirds of Snatcher’s nearly self-aware henchmen; Tracy Morgan has little to do as the third. Interestingly, The Boxtrolls might appeal as much to children, who seem delighted by it, as the animation does to fans who adore stop-motion.