Laika has the ability to conjure up magic and unique premises that you can’t find anywhere else, and it’s why I think they’re bringing so much to the animation medium. While “The Box Trolls” isn’t their best title, it surely is a meaningful and heartfelt work of art that works as an entertaining allegory about the class structure and the idea of the dream of wealth and whether or not it can ever live up to our fantasies. Is there such a thing as too much? And it is really as ideal as we think?
Eggs (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), an orphan abandoned on a garbage dump as a toddler, lives with the Boxtrolls — a community of quirky, mischievous creatures who inhabit a cavern beneath the city of Cheesebridge. When conniving Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) hatches a plan to get rid of the pretty harmless beings, Eggs decides to go above ground, where he meets and befriends feisty Winnifred (Elle Fanning). Together, Eggs and Winnifred devise a daring plan to save the Boxtrolls from extermination as Snatcher prepares a master plan to exterminate them.
“The Box Trolls” is one of the more poignant fantasies of the Laika legacy, as it evokes Dickensian overtones about class, family, and social structure. The writers manage to confront a lot of very adult themes and depressing overtones with the use of whimsical comedy and some amazing animation. From the moment we see Eggs, he’s a child that’s been left to die, and is saved by the Box Trolls that find the only human in the world that grows to love them almost instantly. The writers’ injections of social commentary are a tad on the nose, but it also works within the frame work of the narrative. Within “The Box Trolls” the “White Hats” are the upper class, wealthy elite that wile their days away basking in their money. The exterminators are the lower class working toward being rewarded the white hats by doing their bidding, no matter how degrading.
The Box Trolls are, of course, the homeless. They’re stigmatized, demonized, numerous, and often times shunned by society. The white hats seek to destroy the Box Trolls by turning the exterminators against them, with villainous Snatcher so anxious to claim a White Hat, he subjects everyone to his cruelty. Meanwhile, Eggs learns something about being human and has to ultimately figure out how to balance both worlds, especially as he earns the interest of Winnifred. She’s a fascinating heroine who learns a lot about the stereotyped Box Trolls, amounting to often engaging and charming evolution between both protagonists. Laika definitely offers audiences an original and worthwhile fantasy that promotes pride in yourself, and learning to be proud no matter where you come from. It’s a definite essential in the Laika library.