The Boxtrolls (2014) is Laika Studios latest stop-motion offering that deals with themes of alienation and paranormal activity. It fits right in with its previous entries of Coraline (2009) and Paranorman (2012) in depicting youth dealing with otherworldly visitors and coming to grips with accepting those aspects in their own lives while also showing others to accept things that are different. While this theme certainly is worthwhile for adolescents, to see the studio branch out a little would have been refreshing. At this point, plot points have gotten a little stale and characters are being recycled from their previous films.
The Boxtrolls tells the story of Eggs (so named because of his box) who is raised by boxtrolls (thought to be evil by the town). The boxtrolls are rounded up by an team of exterminators, led by the odious Archibald Snatcher (voice of Ben Kingsley) who has been promised membership into the prestigious white-hat cheese club if he captured all of the boxtrolls. As the boxtrolls continue to be snatched, Eggs must come to grips with his real identity as he ventures into the human world for help, stumbling into Winnie (Elle Fanning) who helps him and the town learn the truth about Snatcher and the boxtrolls.
The Boxtrolls is a fun family adventure that provides just the right beats between humor, horror and disgust. What prevents it from elevating itself beyond just an enjoyable afternoon however is its poor characters, essentially cardboard cutouts or achetypes that simply serve to move the story from point A to point B. Some actual characters with depth would have created a more dynamic narrative to be emotionally involved in. The most interesting characters are in fact the boxtrolls, and they are kept out of the main arc of the story for most of the narrative, which is a real shame. A tighter narrative on them and their relation to Eggs, including more of his upbringing, would have made a more compelling story. Tying into this point also is an overreliance on the villain Snatcher and his motivations. He almost becomes the protagonist in a sense, and this does not serve the story well since he is completely unrelatable.
In conclusion, The Boxtrolls will entertain, not entrance, the viewer with its visuals and familiar story themes and beats, but suffers from a lack of strong characters and a less focused narrative. Instead of focusing so intently on Snatcher, Eggs should have been the sole protagonist and the boxtrolls themselves should have been given more screentime.