Archibald Snatcher longs to become a member of the elite class in his town – the White Hats. He tells the leader of the White Hats, Lord Portley-Rind that a local infant – The Trubshaw Baby - has been kidnapped by Boxtrolls, an underground society of tinkerers with their own language and unorthodox looks. Portley-Rind agrees that if Snatcher kills all of the Boxtrolls, he can become a member of the White Hats. Snatcher spends the next decade hunting down the Boxtrolls, ostensibly to ensure that they take no more human babies. *SPOILERS AHEAD THE REST OF THE WAY* As he prepares to collect and kill the last of the Boxtrolls, Snatcher is surprised to find that The Trubshaw Baby has returned. The truth behind Snatcher’s story is about to be challenged.
The Adoption Connection *HUGE SPOILERS IN THIS SECTION*
Eggs is a human boy who is raised by the Boxtrolls. His father committed him to the care of the Boxtrolls when he was very young, because his father was actively in danger of being murdered. The Boxtrolls raised Eggs as one of their own, and one Boxtroll, Fish, takes a particularly nurturing, parenting role. Both Eggs and the Boxtrolls seem unaware of the fervor being created aboveground by Snatcher, using Eggs’ disappearance to whip up fear against the Boxtrolls.
Eggs is confronted by a young girl who encourages him to look at his body, compared to that of the Boxtrolls. She notes that his hands look more like her own than they look like the hands of the Boxtrolls. Because of this, she asserts that he is not a Boxtroll. Fish, confirms sadly that he is not a Boxtroll.
Eggs is eventually reunified with his father, and together they join with the Boxtrolls to work against Snatcher.
In a way, The Boxtrolls reminds me of The Jungle Book – because of a traumatic event, a human child is being raised in a vastly different environment than the one they were born into. I wrote a bit about cross-cultural adoption themes in the Jungle Book (click here to check it out).
Fish is heartwarmingly tender and nurturing towards Eggs, without using words.
The villain’s henchmen continually question themselves, wondering whether they are really on the right side.
Eggs finds courage in the face of loss, asking his society, “Why do we go on like everything’s normal” when we keep facing drastic losses. This kind of reminds me of the growing voice of the adoption community demanding access to things of which they have been unfairly deprived – like original birth certificates.
If you stay through the credits, a song proclaims that some kids have families that look different than other, and that “we should be glad for the families we have and reach out to those who are on their own.”
Young children who are adopted transracially might have trouble when a child is told that he can’t belong to a group if he doesn’t look like them. The movie does not correct this. The conversation in this scene is very powerful. After Eggs is confronted with the fact that he doesn’t look like Fish, he asks, “It’s not true, is it, Fish? I’m a Boxtroll. Isn’t it right, Fish?” Fish says no. “Was I stolen?” Fish says he was given. “I was given to you? Who gave me to you?” And Eggs crumbles to the ground. Fish then tells Eggs the story of how he came to live with the Boxtrolls – kind of like Po learning his story in Kung Fu Panda 2. After learning his story, Eggs and the girl he has met talk about what a father is. She tells him that a father is someone who raises you, looks after you, and loves you. Eggs asks, “Like Fish?” and the girl replies, “Yes,” then looks at Fish, and changes her answer to “no.”
In trying to stir up fear against the Boxtrolls, Snatcher gives rather vivid descriptions of the imagined horrors they commit – slurping up intestines and eating faces. It might be scary for young kids.
Some kids might find it very sad and confusing to see the Boxtrolls’ numbers dwindle as they are systematically captured and imprisoned by Snatcher’s squad. One young viewer in the theater with me asked his mother sadly (and loudly enough for me to hear from the other side of the theater!) “Why are they gonna kill all the Boxtrolls?” He was concerned. I could imagine it being very concerning for kids with abandonment issues or fear of loss.
Along those lines – Fish is eventually captured, and is pulled away from Eggs’ arms. A sad scene follows where Eggs, disconsolate, sits alone, trying without success to find comfort in the activities he once shared with Fish. It could be very sad for viewers with loss issues. In fact, for Eggs, this is the second time He’s lost a father figure. He gets both of his fathers back, and that seems to be the only reason he bounces back from his sadness.
Eggs’ first interactions with his birth culture are humorously awkward.
The villain dies grotesquely, first swelling and then exploding from an allergic reaction.
An adult tries to strangle and kill a child.
Eggs believes that he sees his entire Boxtroll family killed. He also hears people chanting for the Boxtrolls to be killed. Later, they chant for his death, as well.
Kids will like the Boxtrolls. They’re like the Minions from Despicable Me – talking in their own silly language, tinkering with machinery, and being generally good-natured. They’re not as cute as the Minions, though. While the Minions kind of look like Twinkies or lemons, the Boxtrolls look more like Gollum. Oh, and they hide in boxes when they’re scared, like the kid from Martian Child. They also eat bugs, and one likes machinery so much that he rips the head off a musical teddy bear to get to the mechanism inside. Oh, and they bite when they’re scared – Eggs bites a girl on the arm. Young kids might mimic that. I imagine that the film will appeal to grade school kids, but I think it’s also funny enough to be entertaining to teenagers. The young kids to whom it will most appeal are also the ones who might have the hardest time with some of the issues I covered in the “Challenges” section. I’d recommend this one for ages 12 and up, or for ages 7 and up if the parent screens the film first.
Why did Eggs fall to the ground when he heard that he had been “given” to the Boxtrolls?
What might have been a better way for him to learn his story?
Can people be a family even if they don’t look similar?