The Boxtrolls is a 2014 American 3D stop motion fantasy film based on the novel Here Be Monsters! written by Alan Snow. The film was produced by Laika, other-wise known for Coraline and ParaNorman, and is directed by Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi. The cast includes Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Ben Kingsley, Elle Fanning, Toni Collette, Jared Harris, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade and Tracy Morgan.
I didn’t know what to think about this film before watching. I didn’t really know what to expect. The trailers didn’t really catch my attention and I was honestly ready to write it off as being something just not really for me. I eventually decided after reading some of the mixed reviews and opinions about it to let it have a chance. I think stop-motion is a terrific genre filled with a meticulously difficult amount of attention to detail, so that was a widely considered factor as well. If there is one thing that I will always regret. I will regret seeing the film in 3D. I ever do that. Ever. This time though, I didn’t have a choice because it was the only option offered. And you know what, that had to have been some of the laziest 3D that I have ever seen. In-fact, I was convinced that it looked better with the glasses off rather than on because of how little they changed. But ah well…
The film begins with the main-antagonist of the film, Archibald Snatcher informing Lord Portley-Rind that the Boxtrolls have kidnapped a baby boy. This allows for Snatch to strike a deal that if he is able to exterminate the Boxtrolls, he’ll receive a White Hat and become a member of an elite club that samples various different cheeses.
That is exactly as bizarre as it sounds. The film comically mocks the aficionados and their ‘big-word banter’. Imagine a bunch of snobs eating cheese and doing nothing else and you’ll basically have the White Hats. The Boxtrolls are a small and timid type, frightened by nature, they come out and scavenge trash cans while they look for means for some of their intentions. One of the Boxtrolls is named Fish and he looks after a baby boy living there named Eggs. Eggs eventually becomes grown up as a Boxtroll while more and more of them are taken away by the Snatcher and his men.
The film is actually darker than I imagined it would be. When I saw the trailers, I was expecting for it to be on the lighter side of a balanced breakfast but the film actually has some subject-matter with underlying tones. For one, the Boxtrolls seems to be about the absolute genocide of a group without any truly just reason except the propaganda being thrown around. There is also some other scenes depicting the ‘extermination’ that aren’t grotesque but you can definitely see where inspiration might have come. I don’t offer these as criticisms. I don’t have any care in the world about it. I know some others have called it disturbing, but I just noticed the themes. As a film, I think it is perfectly fine for children.
The characters are fine. They aren’t extremely witty or likeable, but they are at least somewhat witty and likeable. I smiled at a couple moments in the film. I didn’t really laugh much throughout the whole film, especially not at first. However, there is absolutely something about the charm throughout it all that makes it entertaining enough to carry through. There is also a handful of cheesy (ha!) one-liners to enjoy. I think that’s likely one of the best ways to describe the film. I don’t think I’d call it sidesplitting but it’s entertaining for certain and there are definitely a few choice-moments for a chuckle.
The animation is done terrifically well. I think most folk can appreciate how long and tedious of a process that stop-motion is. I think they did very well. And I think that I would have enjoyed it even more hadn’t I watched it in 3D which only succeeded at making the screen darker.
If there is one thing that I truly criticize about the film, it’s that the characters themselves never completely won me over. I was invested in the storyline. I was invested in the idea of the Boxtrolls as a whole more than I was with any of the individual characters. There were some scenes through the film, ones heavier in dialogue than others where the main-character wanted to carry on these themes of standing up against nature. That moment didn’t feel built-up toward, for one, but it also failed at connecting with me. I didn’t really care too much about any particular character. I cared about the idea of them, and sometimes they even did things that I enjoyed or smiled at. I was definitely charmed but I didn’t necessarily have any emotional investment in them. I think that’s the only problem I had with it.
In conclusion, I would count The Boxtrolls as a check in the win column for Laika. The stop-motion animation is wonderful. The story is ambitious with plenty of in-depth underlying tones, and there’s a lot of charm and wit to come with it. The characters aren’t completely flawless in their development. Some elements might have seemed anticlimactic or like they weren’t being built toward. All in all though, for fans of animation and for most movie fans, I think Boxtrolls is a film worth seeing.
Thanks for reading..