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The Boxtrolls - Movie Review


4 stars

The creative wizards over at Laika, who previously brought you Coraline and Paranorman, have waved their wands and – POOF! – done it again.   The Boxtrolls is another morbidly funny entry in their 3D stop motion animated film catalog and, while not as friendly as the aforementioned titles, is equally dark and delightful. This time the Portland-based company digs in its heels and presents the Weird with their loose adaptation of Alan Snow’s beloved kid-lit novel Here Be Monsters! and the results are eccentrically surreal.

Beneath the streets of a foggy English town live The Boxtrolls. These lovable creatures – who speak in unintelligible gibberish – could care less about upsetting your delicate sensibilities.   They are on a mission to collect what you don’t need. They earn their name by using cardboard boxes as if they were turtle shells and, thanks to the local pest exterminator Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley), get their nasty reputation for killing innocent babies from an ugly smear campaign designed to promote his business.

But all is not what Snatcher says it is. The child they are accused of eating – Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright) – is now a teenager with eyes for a young surface-dweller (Elle Fanning) named Winnie Portley-Rind. He has no memory of his parents and knows only The Boxtrolls way of living; they are HIS family. Snatcher, a pariah and social climber if ever there was one, wants to rid the town of the harmless trolls so that he can dine with the elite and Eggs must fight to save his family’s reputation. Also featuring the voice talent of Toni Collette, Jared Harris, Simon Pegg and Tracy Morgan, The Boxtrolls is a 3D subterranean trip worth taking.

If you haven’t noticed, the creative vision over at Laika is a bit twisted. Directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi put their best Monty Python foot forward with the new film however. After years of the same type of vision for childhood and its entertainment, Laika is a welcome and necessary change. They story isn’t the sole focus but the film is so busy with black humor beats that its flaws are easily forgivable.

Much of The Boxtrolls is demented and harmlessly edgy. The herky jerky motions of the boxtrolls are a bit unnerving and even the gross exaggerations in the designs of the human characters are a tad upsetting (if such things bother you). This is a gloomy story with a wickedly smart subtext and - while not as emotionally charged as it would have been with Neil Gaiman at its center - it is a rewarding journey through the dark heart of family definitions.

Screenwriters Irena Brignull and Adam Pava have developed a world composed out of discarded items and other brick-a-brac from the world we know and lovingly reassembled it for a brand new world. The Boxtrolls is a fantasy but totally recognizable as our world, too. The snarky script echoes a sense of earthiness in slightly goonish characters voiced by Nick Frost and Richard Ayoade. Even the disappointment when Fanning’s character realizes that the bottom-dwelling boxtrolls aren’t baby-eaters resonates with an eerily real world quality. Candyland it isn’t.

The company is three films into its history and the filmmakers aren’t backing down from their dark vision for kid’s entertainment. Laika isn’t afraid to present children with a truly terrifying world. In the PC “yeah but is it safe for my kid?” world, today’s children desperately need to hear Laika’s voice.


[tab title="Film Details"]

The Boxtrolls - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: PG for action, some peril and mild rude humorGraham Annable, Anthony Stacchi.
97 mins
: Graham Annable, Anthony Stacchi
Irena Brignull, Adam Pava
Ben Kingsley, Jared Harris, Nick Frost
: Action | Family
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes...even rectangles.
Memorable Movie Quote: "I'm big boned"
Focus Features
Official Site: http://www.theboxtrolls.com/
Release Date:
September 26, 2014
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
January 20, 2015
Synopsis: Heroes come in all shapes and sizes...even rectangles. When Earth is taken over by the overly-confident Boov, an alien race in search of a new place to call home, all humans are promptly relocated, while all Boov get busy reorganizing the planet. But when one resourceful girl, Tip, (Rihanna, who also contributes a song) manages to avoid capture, she finds herself the accidental accomplice of a banished Boov named Oh (Jim Parsons). The two fugitives realize there’s a lot more at stake than intergalactic relations as they embark on the road trip of a lifetime.


[tab title="Blu-ray Review"]

The Boxtrolls - Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - January 20, 2015
Screen Formats: 1.78:1
: English SDH, French, Spanish
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Spanish: DTS 5.1; French: DTS 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); UV digital copy; iTunes digital copy; DVD copy
Region Encoding: A

The Boxtrolls looks wondrous in its 1080p transfer, making the purples, greenish-blues, and reds pop against the brown tones.  From the trolls and the townspeople to the gears and gizmos; The Boxtrolls is one gorgeous looking film.  While the 1.78:1 image isn't bursting with the types of bright colors you'd see in other animated films, it does have quite the wonderful palette.  And even in the dimmest, darkest moments, The Boxtrolls is a sight to behold. The stop-motion animation is wonderfully detailed, which is evident in both the 3D and 2D versions.  Like all of Laika’s work (which includes Coraline and ParaNorman), The Boxtrolls is a gem and uniquely crafted stop motion film that is a superb delight. While perhaps the story is not as strong as Laika’s past features, it’s in its simplicity that The Boxtrolls shines.  Why The Boxtrolls doesn't have a 7.1 track is anyone's guess, but it's hard to be disappointed with this DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. The varied vocal track is always clear, even with the film's many accents and chaotic moments.



  • There is also commentary by directors Annable and Stacchi.  Listening to these men discuss their working and thought process when approaching the large stop motion feature is both quirky and impressive, showing us just how much work it actually takes to make a movie of this caliber.

Special Features:

There is about 17 minutes of animated, preliminary drawings and 33 minutes of interviews with the cast and crew. The Featurettes are probably the best of the bunch, but also the shortest. Despite being broken up into five sections, this short collection on the artists and the overall production only runs a mere 13 minutes total.  Movies about orphaned boys with quirky/odd families are a specialty when it comes to stop motion (James and the Giant Peach), and combined with the film’s added wit and dark humor, The Boxtrolls is the perfect film to add to your animated Blu-ray collection.

  • Preliminary Animatic Sequences with Optional Commentary by Directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi (17 min)
  • Dare to Be Square: Behind the Scenes of The Boxtrolls (33 min)
  • Featurettes (13 min)


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