This week for Family Movie Night I wanted to pick something more current that you can stream on Netflix. So I went with last year’s Academy Award nominated film The Boxtrolls. This is a stop-motion film from Laika Studios. They previously made Coraline and Paranorman. Both of those films are better than Boxtrolls, but I think it is creative and has a nice message that you can discuss with your children.
First of all if you have kids that love things that are gross, slimy, and full of goo than Boxtrolls is a movie they will especially love. It is dark and has some scary moments but shouldn’t be too much for most kids. I would say 4th grade and up.
The Boxtrolls is about a town called Cheesebridge where they have a strict class system. If you are in the top class you get to eat cheese, discuss the problems of the town and wear a special white hat. The leader of the White Hats is named Lord Portley-Rind who hates creatures called The Boxtrolls. He is prejudiced against them because he thinks they steal and kidnapped a baby.
There is a man named Archibald Snatcher who wants to wear a white hat and be respected more than anything else. This despite the fact he is grossly allergic to cheese (it’s pretty gross but funny his reaction to the cheese). I think it is an interesting motivation for a villain. He doesn’t care about money or necessarily the power. He just wants to be respected and a white hat means respect.
So, Portley-Rind makes a deal with Snatcher that he can be admitted into the White Hats if will round up all the Boxtrolls and rid the city of them.
Meanwhile, the Boxtrolls have actually cared for the baby, who was left neglected and this boy is called Eggs because of the box which he wears. His father is named Fish and is very inventive using the things they scavenge for to make new inventions.
They were very smart to make the Boxtrolls not be able to talk. If they had some cheeky dialogue like say the Gargoyles in Hunchback of Notre Dame that would have been very annoying.
The thing I like about this movie is it is so clever in its messaging. I like that it teaches kids about how we divide ourselves into classes and sometimes the clothing we wear which creates these divisions. Take for example sneakers. If we have the newest and coolest Air Jordans it is a way of saying to the world we are the best, richest, most successful types of people. You could make the same argument about cars we drive that differentiate ourselves from the masses.
It is important to teach children about these divisions so they can watch out for it amongst their friends and in their own behavior (and their parents on occasion!). The truth is everyone deserves to be treated with respect and love no matter what hat or sneakers you wear or what car you drive.
Another helpful lesson in The Boxtrolls is about envy. Here Archibald is so envious of the position of Lord Portley-Rind he is willing to put his health in danger. Being respected and honored is more important than anything else. It is important to talk to kids about the dangers of envy and how it truly is one of the deadliest of all the deadly sins.
That’s not to say the film is downbeat. I find it to be funny and the ending is exciting. There is also a terrific voice cast with Ben Kingsley, Elle Fanning, Tracey Morgan, Nick Frost, Jared Harris, Toni Collette and more.
It is dark and might scare small children and some may find it too disgusting for their taste. There is also a scene where a character sings in drag, so if that is a strong objection you will want to take that into account.
Overall, it isn’t perfect but I think The Boxtrolls is a creative and enjoyable animated film and definitely worth a watch with your family.