Laika, the stop-action animation company behind Coraline and ParaNorman, delivers another not-quite-for-kids film that wows the eyes and challenges our awareness of the world around us. It’s not that it lacks humor (seriously, Eric Idle wrote the theme song for the film), but it’s a darker sense of what lies beneath, in our hearts, that Alan Snow’s story delivers on the big screen.
Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) has the little pseudo-English town of Cheesebridge in a tizzy, claiming that the subterranean box trolls have stolen a child and are coming to steal all of the good people’s cheese. (Cheese is the primary food eaten but it serves as a stand-in for high society’s privilege and power as well.) Snatcher has pulled one over on the dolt of a town leader, Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris), but not his daughter, Winnie (Elle Fanning). When Winnie discovers that one of the box trolls is a real boy, Eggs (Isaac Hampstead-Wright), Snatcher’s plan to eradicate the box trolls and worm his way into high society is threatened.
The film is visually stunning– especially if you consider that it’s been hand painted and formed. But it’s the story that is much deeper than what the average cartoon is pulling off- and more certainly than my seven-year-old could see.
Snatcher or FOX News/MSNBC (you pick) has made the people of the town fear what they didn’t understand, what was different or new, and carved out power for himself when the box trolls are really harmless and well-meaning. It’s even more nefarious than political though, because Snatcher’s lair is (or looks like) a church- and his high society desire seems to be intent on holding the poor down and making the rich richer. Sick stuff, indeed.
What it takes is one little girl unwilling to buy into it- and the belief that a father should be and can be good. Winnie teaches Eggs what it means to be human and tells him what life should be like. It’s a transformation in Eggs, in the box trolls, in the situation that spreads a new gospel of respect and courage, that says we don’t have to accept the fear, we don’t have to cower, that we don’t have to let our worldview be warped.
The Boxtrolls is a beautiful movie, visually and morally, but it’s probably over the heads of most kids (and maybe some adults…) Experience a new world, watch with wonder. And consider what your world would look like if you abolished fear.
I John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.