In a year dominated by LEGOs and dragons, who would’ve thought that a little squad of trolls who wear boxes would sneak up and steal the show? Well, they may have done it, because The Boxtrolls is a great deal of fun for all ages providing enough cute humor to satisfy the little ones and enough dark imagery and adult content to engage the adults.
Based on the novel Here Be Monsters by Allan Snow, The Boxtrolls is the latest entry from Laika Studios, which you may know for making the great stop motion features Coraline and Paranorman. Just like in 2012, a year with great animated movies like Brave and Wreck-it Ralph, Paranorman snuck up and stole the show. Sure, Wreck-it Ralph was better and I still think Brave undeservedly won that Oscar, but still, Paranorman was better than Frankenweenie, which shocked me most of all being a Tim Burton fan. And just like 2012, Laika has done the same thing in 2014. The LEGO Movie was great. How to Train Your Dragon 2 was great. The Guillermo del Toro produced feature The Book of Life is still on the way. And yet The Boxtrolls is a romping good time and sure to be a contender at the Oscars in the animation category.
The story follows Archibald Snatcher (ferociously voiced by Sir Ben Kingsley), a baddie in the European town of Cheesebridge who desperately wants to be a White Hat. What is a White Hat, you ask? Basically, the members serve as the City Council, and they get to test new cheese, and they also to wear white hats. In order to get this white hat, Archibald Snatcher makes a deal with Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris) to kill every last Boxtroll in the town. What is a Boxtroll, you ask? A race of monsters so evil, despicable, and hungry for human flesh that they will stop at nothing to hunt down humans and eat their faces. This, of course, is according to legend. The Boxtrolls, a sweet and funny little group of characters, spark thoughts of the Minions. They’re hilarious to watch and most times just downright adorable, and because of this and a very well developed screenplay, The Boxtrolls soars.
The voice cast is top notch, from Jared Harris and Toni Collete (Little Miss Sunshine and the TV series Hostages) as Lord and Lady Portley-Rind to Ellie Fanning as Winnie, their daughter. Ben Kingsley is sheer perfection as the villainous Archibald Snatcher and he is a villain that I can promise you I won’t forget about any time soon. Kingsley’s voice work is stunningly dramatic and sometimes even a bit funny, just like he himself is known for managing (think of Iron Man 3.) As his three henchmen, Richard Ayoade (from The IT Crowd), Tracy Morgan (you know Tracy Morgan), and Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead) are great. I didn’t know they served as voice actors in the movie which made it a treat when I saw their names in the credits. Also a shock and joy (but no surprise given Nick Frost’s involvement) was seeing Simon Pegg’s name! He plays a character I won’t spoil, but he did a terrific job and his character was funny and bizarre, as could be expected. Last but certainly not least is the lead character Eggs, voiced by Isaac Hempstead Wright, or as you know him, Bran Stark. Yes, Eggs is voiced by Bran, and I admit I didn’t realize it until the credits, but he did a wonderful job. It was so awesome seeing all of these talents’ names roll which the already great experience that much better.
Watching a stop motion animation film is one of the most joyous every for me. I love the art and I love the dedication that these people go through to spend hours on just a few seconds of screen time. It’s wonderful and completely mind blowing, and the animation in this movie, just like mostly all stop motion animation, looks amazing. If you are reading this review and you had anything to do with the making of this movie and/or the process of stop motion animation in general, I respect you greatly, and you did a terrific job. (Also, I particularly liked the midcredits bit of the movie that paid respect to the artists responsible for bringing these characters to life.)
The Boxtrolls suffers through a few slow points and it isn’t consistently spectacular, but for the most part, it really is. It’s filled with memorable characters (I can see the Boxtrolls themselves being as memorable and loved as the Minions), terrific voice work, and beautiful animation. It’s dark at points and scary, but so was Paranorman. I loved this movie, and Taika stands strong with this third production.
Rated PG for action, some peril, and mild rude humor
Starring Ben Kingsley, Toni Collete, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, Jared Harris, Tracy Morgan, Richard Ayoade, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg
Written by Irena Brignull and Adam Pava
Directed by Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi