Director: Graham Annable, Anthony Stacchi
Starring: Elle Fanning, Simon Pegg, Toni Collette, Tracy Morgan, Ben Kingsley, Jared Harris, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade
Rated: PG (action, some peril and mild rude humor)
A young orphaned boy raised by underground cave-dwelling trash collectors tries to save his friends from an evil exterminator.
By Matt Greene
Laika studios have built their young legacy on uniquely gorgeous and strangely macabre children’s movies, carefully crafting odd but undeniably beautiful stop-motion pictures. The Boxtrolls, in many ways, sits comfortably on their shelf, with lively cinematography, dark characters, and light humor. That said, Boxtrolls is far and away their least successful outing. The oddities here are neither fun enough (i.e. Paranorman) nor gorgeous enough (i.e. Coraline) to warrant its bipolar strangeness/mainstream-ness. Nonetheless, there is plenty of technical and artistic spectacle that helps it outshine the problems.
The world of Boxtrolls is a unique one: above the ground is a city of cheese-loving aristocrats who live in a constant fear of…really anything. Under the ground is the city of the boxtrolls, a community of innocent dark-Despicable-Me-minions who dress in cardboard boxes and go above ground to gather supplies. It’s a fascinating universe, that when not struggling with heavy handed messages and undeserved character arcs, is full of funny idiosyncrasies, steam punk sensibilities, and fish-out-of-water goodness. The villains are the standouts; non-sequitur, bumbling, and wholly entertaining, they breathe a complexly funny bit of self-evaluation to the proceedings that you rarely see in kids films.
Herein lies another issue: who is this movie for? The childish wit and adult tones don’t gel evenly. It dabbles in silly characters and dumb cheese puns for kids, but also has plenty of darkly irreverent and even off-putting sexual humor. Unevenness aside, Boxtrolls is still an achievement in style and a somewhat-worthy addition to Laika’s canon.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
By Cole Schneider
“The Boxtrolls” is exquisitely designed. Clearly, a lot of meticulous craft went into the making of the film and that alone always demands the attention and respect of the audience. It is occasionally funny and always weird, yet I didn’t laugh much and it always felt generic. From Laika, the studio that brought us “Coraline” and “Paranorman”, “The Boxtrolls” is another story creepy fantasy about a socially ostracized child.
The boy, Eggs, has been raised by a group of seemingly nefarious creatures living in the under-girth of society called boxtrolls. They are harmless, but humans find them repulsive, even dangerous. Eggs is so assimilated into the boxtrolls way-of-life that he believes himself to be one. Like if Mowgli from the “Jungle Book” didn’t realize he was a man-cub. Meanwhile there is a genuinely nefarious character aptly named Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) who’s mission it is to rid the city of the boxtrolls like Judge Frollo hunted gypsies from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. It is a marginally unique story told in a uniquely uninteresting way.
There are a handful of twists and turns, but the foreshadowing beforehand is so heavy that any 10 year-old will see it coming a mile away. What’s worse is that these twists are not story progressions so much as character digressions, with inserted motivational ploys throughout. Rather than menacing, Snatcher just feels sad. Rather than charming, Eggs and his friend Winnie just feel dull. Fundamentally, that may be the problem: “The Boxtrolls” is never genuinely charming.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars