THE BOXTROLLS are a community of quirky, mischievous creatures who have lovingly raised an orphaned human boy named Eggs in the amazing cavernous home they've built beneath the streets of a city called Cheesebridge. The story is about a young orphaned boy raised by underground cave-dwelling trash collectors who tries to save his friends from an evil exterminator, the town's villain, Archibald Snatcher. When Snatcher comes up with a plot to get rid of the Boxtrolls. Eggs decides to venture above ground and "into the light," where he meets and teams up with fabulously feisty Winnie. Together, they devise a daring plan to save The BoxTrolls family. The film is based upon the children's novel 'Here Be Monsters' by Alan Snow. Written by
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The Boxtrolls, a well-crafted stop motion animation film combined with the latest CGI advances, is an entertaining but somewhat safer and slightly sanitized film from Laika, the same studio that delivered Coraline and ParaNorman, two earlier children's film with a twisted Gothic edge. A pleasant antidote to the cheery Disney fare regularly served to the young set, the film is diverting fun.
There are still twists and turns in the film but it's less of a giddy roller coaster ride than expected. Based on Alan Snow's novel, Here Be Monsters, the darker tone of the book has been substantially altered and lightened up for a more crowd-pleasing effect, although there are some grotesque moments that may frighten the little ones.
Moviegoers are immediately transported to the dingy squalor of brick factories and small shoppes that line the cobblestone streets of Dicken's Ole Victorian London town, or, in this case, renamed Cheesebridge. The upper and lower class live here, both in fear of the Boxtrolls, a lower lower subspecies that dwell underground who are part monster, part cardboard. Living amidst them is Eggs, an abandoned child who was lovingly raised by these creatures that roam the night to recycle the discarded refuse left by people. They avoid human contact as much as possible. Who can blame them! There is the haughty and aristocratic Lord and Lady Portley-Rind, their inquisitive and precocious daughter, Winnie, and especially Archibald Snatcher, a scheming and hateful villain whose main goal is to do away with all Boxtrolls!
As with most animated films nowadays, the visual elements are far superior to the narrative story. The Boxtrolls are not the exception. While the script has some clever dialog, an involving tale, and its charming characters, the plot becomes too formula-driven and conventional. The screenplay by Irena Brignull and Adam Pava relies too heavily on slapstick and chase sequences rather than developing any deep characterizations. The Boxtrolls themselves lack any real distinctive personalities and that British droll humor is in short supply. Everything seems a tad too predictable and ordinary, except for the artistry of the filmmakers and their wonderful details with the elaborate settings, steam-punk gadgetry, and off-beat characters. Special kudos to the remarkable production design by Paul Lasaine.
The voice-over work by the actors (Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Elle Fanning, Jared Harris, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Tracy Morgan) is highly accomplished and adds even more joy to the film, especially with Sir Ben Kingley's marvelous line delivery as the nasty baddie who completely steals the film. (In fact, Archibald is more interesting than our hero, Eggs, at least, as viewed in this film adaptation. Kingsley has created one of the best animated villains in years, although part of his great performance pays direct homage to Dame Edna.)
Directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi painstakingly create a unique world of grime and clutter. They also allow the surreal elements to emerge to maximum effect, particularly in the underground sequences. Though the film lacks some cohesiveness in its story-telling, The Boxtrolls, more often than not, does think outside the box. With all its creative energy and technical inventiveness on display, even Roald Dahl would be proud. GRADE: B
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